Haystack Book Festival: “A Soul Admitted to Itself – Solitude, Sociability, and Poetry” with Fenton Johnson and Margaret Gibson

Date: 10/02/2021
Time: 12:00 pm-1:00 pm

Haystack Book Festival presentsA Soul Admitted to Itself  — Solitude, Sociability, and Poetry”: Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life, in conversation with Margaret Gibson, CT State Poet Laureate, and the author of The Glass Globe: Poems and Not Hearing the Wood Thrush: Poems.

To accommodate varying audiences, there are three ways to attend this event:

  1. Live in-person @ the Norfolk Library* with 60 seats available
  2. In-person but live-streamed on the Norfolk Hub’s* large screen with 25 seats available
  3. Virtually live-streamed to watch from home.

*Proof of vaccination and masks required to attend in-person.

To register for your preferred viewing mode for this event, click HERE.  

Fenton Johnson is emeritus professor at the University of Arizona and serves on the faculty of the creative writing program of Spalding University.  His works of fiction include The Man Who Loved Birds; Scissors, Paper, Rock; and Crossing the River.  In nonfiction, Johnson has published Geography of the Heart: A Memoir and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks. He is a regular contributor to Harper’s Magazine, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts At the Center of All Beauty is a profound meditation on accepting, and celebrating, one’s solitude which is the inspirational core for many writers, artists, and thinkers. Alone with our thoughts, we can make discoveries that matter not only to us but to others. To be a solitary is not only to draw sustenance from being alone, but to know that our ultimate responsibility is not only to our partner or our own offspring, but to a larger community. Johnson delves into the lives and works of nearly a dozen iconic “solitaries” he considers his kindred spirits, from Thoreau at Walden Pond and Emily Dickinson in Amherst to Bill Cunningham photographing the streets of New York; from Cézanne (married, but solitary nonetheless) painting Mt. St. Victoire over and over again, to the fiercely self-protective Zora Neale Hurston. Each character portrait is full of intense detail, the bright wakes they’ve left behind illuminating Fenton Johnson’s own journey from his childhood in the backwoods of Kentucky to his travels alone throughout the world and the people he has lost and found along the way. Praise for At the Center of All Beauty: “. . . lyrical yet finely argued . . . the more fully we can learn to exist without the ‘social fiction’ of coupled togetherness, the more likely we are to be able to live most fully, and usefully, in the world, whether as librettist or librarian, wife or friend.” — The New York Times Book Review “[A] flexible and forgiving approach to the subject of solitude . . . [A] thoughtful exploration.” — The Wall Street Journal “. . . a fluid pastiche of memoir, social critique, literary criticism, mystical insights, and philosophical reflections . . . poetic yet profoundly accessible.” — The Bay Area Reporter  

Margaret Gibson is the author of several collections of poetry, including The Glass Globe, Not Hearing the Wood Thrush; Broken Cup, a finalist for the 2016 Poets’ Prize; The Vigil: A Poem in Four Voices, a finalist for the National Book Award; and Long Walks in the Afternoon, a Lamont Poetry Selection. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, Gibson was named the poet laureate of Connecticut in 2019. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut. “Margaret Gibson has created a voice and an art that connect the sensuous experience of the physical world with the inner life,” Pattiann Rogers has written.  Nationally and internationally acclaimed, Margaret Gibson’s poetry is characterized by an uncommon diversity.  The voice may be predominantly lyrical and meditative, and yet there are award-winning, book-length narratives in which she fully inhabits the consciousness of her personae.  Hers is “a finely crafted lyricism and attention to detail rare among poets today,” wrote Brian Henry.  Gibson herself has said, “Writing poetry is an act of attention and receptivity.  You study whatever it is that strikes your attention—whether a scarlet tanager, river, field, or forest, whether mother, daughter, alcoholic, photographer, lover. You take what’s given into that part of the self that inquires, test, embraces, and embodies.  Outer and inner coalesce and fuse.” Praise for Margaret Gibson’s poetry: “This is quite simply an amazing book: deeply moving and insightful, potent and restrained, focused and thoughtful, mercurial and defiant, personal and yet too mindful and philosophical to be merely so.” – Bruce Bond for Not Hearing the Wood Thrush “Margaret Gibson brings a master poet’s breathtaking eloquence to the witnessed, lived through, resilient intertwining of full presence and love in these pages describing the shared journey of her poet- husband’s Alzheimer’sBroken Cup is indispensable, both for its necessity and its extraordinary beauty.” – Jane Hirshfield