Thursday, October 3, 2013

ILLUMINATE


Margaret Simon, one of my New Iberia, Louisiana friends, has chosen an apt title for a slender book of finely-crafted poems published by Border Press. The poems accompany the drawings of John Gibson, her father, who used a technical pen to execute arresting pictures in the tradition of pen and ink pointillism art.
Following a church service at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in New Iberia, Louisiana last year, Margaret told me that she had reviewed a collection of her father’s Christmas cards she had received through the years and conceived the idea of deepening her connection with her father by writing poems to express the religious verses he used to accompany the Christmas card drawings. The result is Illuminate, a book in which each poem is a “harmony creating a vision of love,” as Margaret writes in the first poem she conceived about her father’s art. The poem was an exercise she completed during a writing project retreat with former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque.
The cover of Illuminate by John Gibson features a drawing derived from a photograph he took of a small church in Salzburg following an all-night snowfall. The drawing became the basis for the first Christmas card he “illuminated.” Eleven drawings in Illuminate reflect Gibson’s passion to capture spiritual mysteries in art using the technique of pen and ink pointillism. He does not use lines, and most of the picture elements are created with small dots made by a technical pen with a 0.05-mm point – images of angels, wise men, Mary, and a manger scene that inspired Margaret to write a poem entitled “The Pointillist.”
Margaret’s poems show her command of the writing craft in the range of poetry forms she uses to deliver the message derived from her father’s ink drawings, about which he says: “it is the darkest dark that reveals the brightest light. So it seems also in life.” I was drawn to a sonnet about trees entitled “Dance of the Trees” that is a tribute to Margaret’s father and resonates with rich sound and rhythm:

Dance of the Trees
Look at trees, think of God who came to bring us love.

I watch you watching trees,
I watch you watching those trees
outside your window in the loft.

If you could walk on the roof,
if you could walk out on that roof and touch them—
you could feel their hearts beating,
their hearts beating out the rhythm of the wind.

I watch you drawing the trees.
I watch you drawing those trees
in perfect chiaroscuro, shading just so,
just so they come alive and dance.

The trees dance in the moonlight
when you draw them.
When you draw them, God’s hand moves.
God’s hand is moving.

Illuminate is a small volume, but it radiates with light and inspiration, with religious and nature themes. It’s a unique Christmas gift that celebrates the passion and faith of two family members who teamed up to create an artistic gem.
Margaret Gibson Simon teaches gifted students in Iberia Parish, has published poems in the journal, The Aurorean, and wrote a chapter about teaching poetry to young children for Women on Poetry published by McFarland and Co., Inc. She’s also the author of a young readers’ novel, Blessen, published in April, 2012 by Border Press. Margaret has a Masters degree in Gifted Education and certification by the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards. She lives on the Bayou Teche with her husband Jeff in New Iberia, Louisiana.
John Gibson retired from medicine in 1997 and has been doing pen and ink pointillism for many years. He has displayed his work in galleries in the Jackson, Mississippi metropolitan area since 2001 and received second place in the 2012 Annual Cedars Juried Art Exhibition. He credits the “environment within which he lives for providing him with creations of nature such as trees and foliage and the magical effects of light and shadow as subject for his ink drawings.” He lives with his wife Dot on a lake in Madison County, Mississippi.

Order Illuminate online or from Border Press, PO Box 3124, Sewanee TN 37375.
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