Altered

I finished my graduate coursework in creative writing in the spring of 2005; my eldest son was born that summer; I handed in my thesis, a collection of poems, that fall, while staying at home with the baby and teaching one university class. This is to say that my life as a writer is inextricable from my life as a father.

Now that my two boys are ten and thirteen and have friends and passions and reading lives and can do more for themselves, there is in most days more time than there used to be. But the choices are still real and daily: a poem needs revising, the dishes need doing, the ten-year old needs encouragement when he’s writing for school. Who am I sending those poems to? And who’s the thirteen year-old texting with?

In a poem that made it into my first book, written back when I was learning to give myself over to the eating, pooping, and sleeping of a little baby boy, I wrote about this dynamic:

…when the dog

tugs the leash in one direction

and the stroller rolls in the other

it’s similar to the push and pull

of family and vocation, and each

in turn alters its course.

My course is forever altered by being a dad. What I most love about poems is the full-bodied attention they call us to give to words and sounds about our real and imagined worlds. My boys ask, in so many direct and indirect ways, for a similar kind of attention. Giving that kind of attention—to poems, to boys—can be hard work; work I don’t always want to do. But it’s this work that gives me shape, line, meaning.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s first collection of poems, Death of a Ventriloquist, was chosen by Lisa Russ Spaar for the Vassar Miller Prize and published in 2012. The book received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was featured by Poets & Writers as one of a dozen debut collections to watch. Gibson’s poems have appeared in magazines including Guernica, The New Republic, and Tin House, on the PBS NewsHour Art Beat, and recently in jubilat, Slice, FIELD, and The Literary Review. Excerpts from his novel-in-progress have appeared in Slice and Portland Magazine. He has taught writing at conferences, schools and universities including Columbia University, Haystack, and University of Southern Maine, and helped lead community arts organizations including The Telling Room, SPACE Gallery, and Hewnoaks Artist Colony. He is now the Associate Director at Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.