Girl as Birch
Poetry by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson
Bauhan Publishing, April 2022
Paperback, 92pp; $17
In Girl as Birch, Gibson mimics the flexible (adaptable? too pliant? healthily, if secretly, resilient, then, finally, aligned) motion of a birch in strong wind, as it relates to the options seemingly available to her, growing up as a girl. The poems imitate in form the experiences they evoke. The leitmotifs of red, birches, mirrors, walls enclosing gardens, labyrinths as metaphors for constraint, recur throughout the book. Without being a manifesto, Girl as Birch explores female gender roles with both pliant and uprising imagery and action. Restriction and rebellion, silence and speech, appearance and artifice, passion and repression, the past and being present, buffet and embolden the speaker of these poems. The elastic and varied syntax, pace, music, and the use of rhetoric and wit express deft self-examination. The book moves from serial impressionistic poems of early childhood to discrete lyric poems of memory and experience and on to a sense of emotional, social, spiritual evolution, not resolution.