A Lesser Known Writer

By Sandra Sylvester | Jan 28, 2013
Photo by: Maine Monuments website

Knox County — If you know where to look, you will find some great writers in Maine who may not be as well known as the names you are familiar with. Names like Stephen King, Sarah Orne Jewett, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elizabeth Ogilvie, Kenneth Roberts, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and (Charles) Wilbert Snow.

You can find unlimited information about and access to the writing of these famous people. However, there is one author in Maine which I have talked about before who you will not even find listed in the Maine State Library index. His name is Alonzo Gibbs, a writer born in Long Island, who spent many years living and writing in Maine with his beloved wife, Iris. Perhaps his birthplace excludes him from “Maine” writer lists, but I would certainly include him on my own favorite Maine writers’ list.

I have found scarce information about Gibbs, who lived just down the road from The Hilton Homestead, my Uncle Carl and Aunt Freda’s farm, where I spent many happy days of my childhood. His biography reads, born in 1915 in Long Island New York, died in 1992, buried at Hillside Cemetery in Bremen, Maine. The way I see it, if he’s buried in Maine’s soil, he is forever one of us.

I first discovered him through my cousin, Mary Sue Weeks, who is the present owner of the farm in Bremen. In the blog archives for April, 2012, you will see a brief description of his work (Summer Reading—Maine Authors—Guest Blog, Sara Tavares). At that time I promised to bring you a story about the Hiltons he wrote which is included in his book In the Weir of the Marshes.

I have an autographed copy of that book and I will bring you a piece of that story here as well as one other excerpt from that book. See a complete list of his work at the end of this blog. I did not include those that are now out of print. You will most likely find copies of his book where I found them, at Stone Soup Books of Camden, Maine. You will find them on the internet.

From that book I found out that many of the stories included in the book originally appeared in literary magazines, Wetlands, Snowy Egret, The Long Island Forum, the Quarterly Kinsman, and in The Christian Science Monitor.

The last page of this book also contains comments about his books and poetry. These are some of them:

“The poems are clipped, perfect and austere. They are epigrammatic and intense”—Howard Griffin, about Weather-House

About his poetry, Drift South—“I can compare the power of your lines only to portions of the ‘Ancient Mariner’”—Rockwell Kent

About the poem: The Rumble of Time Through Town: “Mr. Gibbs is well aware of the fragility and shortness of life, the sweetness and tragedy. He writes well with a bittersweet tone, with depth and understanding of the human condition”--Sanford Phippen, Maine Life.

Bremen Bygones

I found reference to his book, Bremen Bygones, by Gibbs and his wife, Iris, under Maine Civil War Monuments. This monument was erected by the Patriotic Club of Bremen, a women’s group formed to raise money for the memorial “In Memory of Her Sons/Who on Land and Sea Fought/To Preserve The Union/1861-1865. It was placed outside the Bremen Union Church in 1916, one year after Gibbs’ birth. This picture shows the unveiling. By the way, the church is still used on special occasions. The Patriotic Club also still exists.

Excerpts

The story about my aunt and uncle, Freda and Carl Hilton, is found under the chapter, “An Advent Calendar of Garlanded Days” number 13:

“When driving south toward their place you first see the snow-scumbled shingles of the family barn across the road, and in the distance, if the day is clear, the Gulf of Maine like a pewter plate set down amongst the faraway trees. Opposite, off to one side, are locust trees planted by Carl when a boy. He could tell you that every home in the old days had such trees nearby; they provided fence posts which were almost impervious to decay. On a stormy day the snow clings to the rough, deeply fissured bark of these thorny hardwoods, even high up amongst the wintering branches. Or in winter-faded sunlight, bare twigs superimpose a shadowy roadmap on the frosty clapboards of the house farther along.”

This paragraph reminds me a lot of Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, which includes the lines “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall;” and “ ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ “ I could easily see it in the form of a poem.

Number 19 Excerpt

“Yes, the first snow! And winds cruelly sharp and sturdy from the north.

“All night flakes have fallen on our seacoast town. They came down softly at first on the trim spire of the church or sifted in through the shutters of the belfry to turn to water on the cast-iron bell. When the wind rose out of the ocean, the storm swept across a neighborhood of Victorian Homes and carriage-sheds.

“Old sea captains are no longer alive to hear the rattling windows. But the out-of-staters who have converted one or another house into a Bed and Breakfast know how the surging winds scrap along the clapboards.”

Works by Alonzo Gibbs and Iris Gibbs

In the Weir of the Marshes

Bremen Bygones

Son of a Mile Long Mother

By a Sea-Coal Fire

One More Day

The Least Likely One

The Fields Breathe Sweet

Weather-House

A Man’s Calling

Drift South

The Rumble of Time Through Town

I sincerely hope I have whetted your appetite for one of my new favorite writers, Alonzo Gibbs. Maybe someday someone will write about that lesser known writer, Sandra Sylvester. I sure hope so.

Thanks for listening.

 

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