Retired poet Gibbons Ruark reads and reflects

At 7 p.m. on March 1 in the Art Gallery of Hege Library, the Learning Commons, the Honors Program and The Greenleaf Review hosted “Rescue the Perishing,” a poetry reading by American poet Gibbons Ruark.

Learning Commons tutor Doug Smith introduced Ruark with his own definition of what a writer is before starting the event.

“Writers are stranger creatures; they live in the world but they do not find it adequate,” said Smith. “So, they invent other worlds, stories, poems and essays.”

Ruark then began the reading, first mentioning a former colleague, famed poet Randall Jarrell

He stated that he hoped that the poem he was about to read would be touched by Jarrell’s spirit.

“(I do it) to rescue the parish,” said Ruark. “What otherwise might be lost, you can save … for a while, at least through writing poems about it.”

Ruark started the actual reading of his work with his poem named “My Daughter Cries Out in Her Sleep.”

“I don’t write (from) ideas,” said Ruark. “I write out of images, sounds, experiences or things that people have said that I might recall being vividly said and try to make something out of that.”

The second poem was inspired by his daughter Jennifer and was addressed both to his father’s ghost and to her.

The poem, “Hybrid Magnolias in Late April,” was published in the book “Passing Through Customs” in 1999.

Later he read a poem about his younger daughter, Emily. The poem was titled “To Emily, Practicing the Clarinet.” It takes place in a lakeside house in the back with a yard, in Ireland.

“(It’s) where I had gone deliberately to work on poems for my sins,” said Ruark.

Ruark’s penultimate reading, “Lightness in Age,” was published in The New Yorker but not in any of his books. The poem featured humor, sympathy and romance.

“In general, I tend to write love poems or eulogies, but frequently either one of those kinds of poems can be keyed by some physical object or some image or something in growth,” said Ruark.

He ended the event with a poem that was dedicated to his wife, Kay Ruark. The poem was called “The Goods She Can Carry: Canticle of Her Basket Made of Reeds.”

At the end of the event, some of Ruark’s books were raffled off. He signed several of them.

“Giving readings is a pleasure,” said Ruark. “It helps you recover a little of the sense of what it was like to write the poem in the first place.”

Ruark is now a retired poet with seven published books. He has numerous awards including three Poetry Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize.

“I don’t think of myself as a poet unless I am in the activity of writing a poem,” said Ruark.

The Greenleaf Review was impressed with the turnout and hope their launch- party readings — which will include reading from those who submitted to the literary magazine — and many other readings have this same turnout.