Preston poet draws on personal hardship to inspire latest work

Preston - Poetry is supposed to hit home and allow the writer to express deeply personal feelings or observations.

For noted local poet Margaret Gibson, life's experiences have entered her work in a way she wished never happened. Gibson is writing about her husband's Alzheimer's disease and how it has affected both their lives.

Her husband, writer, poet and retired University of Connecticut English professor David McKain, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2006. His award-winning memoir "Spellbound: Growing up in God's Country," published in 1989, describes his life in western Pennsylvania and includes segments on his mother's onset of Alzheimer's disease.

"Words were his life, and memory was part of the field he drew from," Gibson said of her husband's struggle with the same disease.

Gibson will lead a poetry reading Thursday at the Preston Public Library at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Connecticut Authors Trail and to mark September as Alzheimer's Awareness Month. The event is free and open to the public.

Gibson has written 10 books of poetry and is working on a new poetry collection dealing exclusively with her family's experiences with Alzheimer's disease. The book will be titled "Broken Cup," and will take the reader from the first signs of the disease to the first trip to the doctor's office to the progression of forgetfulness.

She also will read from her husband's memoir and from her past books, including her 2010 book, "Second Nature."

The following is an excerpt from Gibson's poem, "Respect," from her book, "Broken Cup," scheduled to be published in 2014:

"'I don't understand why I'm like this,'

you say. Your hair is silver-gray, but I take

your hand like a child's, and we sit

on the yellow sofa and settle the cushions.

You trace the splay of small bones on the back

of my hand as I talk about the forgetting,

how invisible it is. Had you

a broken leg, or a brace, 'You'd know,' I say.

'You'd see it plain.' What tangles and knots,

what misfires and seeps away, who sees

that? Who sees that, I repeat, and slowly

something shifts, a dead weight

falls away. Respite, I think, as the light

returns to your eyes from somewhere inner.

You're clear - the way you used to be. Clear."

c.bessette@theday.com

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