Strangers at the Door: Robert Gibb, Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Jose Padua by Michael Simms

Strangers at the Door: Robert Gibb, Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Jose Padua by Michael Simms
May 25, 2023 Simms Michael

In his essay for this month’s Plume, Michael Simms, poet, novelist, and editor of Vox Populi, addresses the enigma of “why a few poets reach national prominence, while others, though highly talented, fail to gain the attention of the public.” He focuses on three mature, award-winning poets—Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Robert Gibb, and Jose Padua—as strong poets whose poetry, he feels, warrants wider and more prominent attention, but which, unlike the work of other more celebrated American poets has for baseless reasons failed to garner the attention and acclaim it deserves.

–Chard DeNiord



Strangers at the Door: Robert Gibb, Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Jose Padua


I’ve always loved poetry that has a clear voice, a strong reliance on craft, and a sense that a person is speaking about ideas or incidents that are of utmost importance to him or her, and I’ve always disliked poems that are merely word games, or that don’t seem authentic. The sound of the poem is the most important quality, and I often say lines out loud in order to hear the music. One of my favorite poems, for example, is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Petrarchan sonnet What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why. However, I have to admit that part of what fascinates me about Millay’s work is that through luck, talent and self-promotion she was able to become one of the best-known authors of her time. Although I’ve served as a literary editor and publisher for many years, trying to make unknown poets known, the conundrum of how and why a few poets reach national prominence while others, though highly talented, fail to gain the attention of the public, has long confounded me. So, here I want to call attention to three mature poets who have done extraordinary work, but have not, in my opinion, received the attention they deserve, and in the process explore different ways one can be an “outsider” in the poetry field.


Robert Gibb is a poet’s poet. By that phrase I mean that he is widely admired among poets across the country, but virtually unknown to the public. He has published a dozen full-length collections and won many awards, including the National Poetry Series, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, and a few Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships. His collection After won the 2016 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize chosen by the acclaimed memoirist and poet Mark Doty, and his recent book Among Ruins won the Ernest Sandeen Award from the University of Notre Dame Press. Yet, despite being regarded by many as one of the most important poets in the country, few people outside the poetry field, even in western Pennsylvania where he lives, know that he exists.

You might say that in the national poetry community Gibb is famous for being unknown. The paradox can be explained perhaps by his unfashionable shyness, his passion for privacy, and his utter lack of narcissism. Gibb is an anomaly in contemporary America, a person who dislikes the limelight and despises self-promotion. He rarely gives readings. He doesn’t attend conferences. Flattery is a foreign tongue to him, and he’s completely at a loss when schmoozing is called for. If you want to talk to him, you’ll have to go to his neighborhood bar where he nurses a beer every Friday evening while talking to his neighbors who have no idea that he’s a major American poet because he’s never mentioned it. And his art is not the only subject he doesn’t discuss with his neighbors. In the poem “On Not Telling Anyone At The Bar,” Gibb explains why he didn’t tell them about the death of his wife:


Because I could not find a place for her death there
In the auspices of gossip and small talk and jokes…


Gibb has lived most of his life in Homestead, Pennsylvania, six miles south of downtown Pittsburgh, and spends his time tending his vegetable garden, sketching landscapes in his notebook, and writing some of the most elegantly understated works of literature that have ever been created by an American. What August Wilson did for the Hill District and John Edgar Wideman did for Homewood, Robert Gibb has done for Homestead. The former mill town is not only his home; it is his subject and his inspiration. Born to a family of steelworkers, he is a champion of the Monongahela Valley — its history, its geography, its mix of ethnicities. The Homestead Trilogy, a nearly 100-poem cycle probing the fading industrial culture of his hometown, is widely regarded (at least among people who care about such things) as an American masterpiece.


In the trilogy, Gibb moves beyond a description of place and creates a deeply imagined, personal saga of a multigenerational, working-class family, a true novel in verse. The Gibb family history, often troubled, is offered up as testament to the human costs of industrialization. The poet is a master as well of the more public Pittsburgh history. He writes of Kennywood, Frick Park, Clayton, and the Carnegie Natural History Museum. “Khrushchev Visits Mesta Machine, 1959: A Variation on the Double-Sonnet” marks an iconic Cold War moment, and it is, as one critic describes it, “dead funny.” In an interview, the poet said he attempted to use the mill town “as a kind of epicenter — social, historical, autobiographical” – in other words, a world in which to hold the world. As the late Peter Oresick wrote in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about World Over Water, the final book in the trilogy: “There is something a little crazy in this approach to a book of poems. Gibb’s insistence on squeezing so much meaning out of Homestead is reminiscent of August Wilson’s limited but intense spotlight on the Hill District in his Pittsburgh cycle of plays. Yet, somehow they both pull it off.”

Often, Gibb’s poems describe photographs of Homestead in its bustling heyday. For example, these lines are from “Dream Street” which celebrates the work of W. Eugene Smith:


He’s at work, at home, cropping shots,
Deepening the contrasts of light and shade:
The platinum of the train tracks,
Barges seen like dark drowned wings
Being freighted down the river…


Gibb’s poems are so natural in their tone that they might seem like someone, anyone, just talking; that is, if anyone but Gibb could have a genius for lyric precision, a painter’s eye for detail, an impeccable ear for the music of his native dialect, and an unbearable grief born from the awareness of losing everything that matters to him a little at a time. Below, for example, is “Kites”, a short poem which captures the feelings of a boy when he sees furled kites in the neighborhood five-and-dime at the beginning of Spring. You can sense in these lines the boy’s imagination soaring with his kite above the river valley. The entire experience is captured in these lines: the thrill of anticipation, the challenge of the construction, the excitement of flight, the aftermath of ruin.  In this one short narrative, the entire arc of life is represented:



Come March we’d find them
In the five-and-dimes,
Furled tighter than umbrellas
About their slats, the air


In an undertow above us
Like weather on the maps.
We’d play out lines
Of kite string, tugging against


The bucking sideways flights.
Readied for assembly,
I’d arc the tensed keel of balsa
Into place against the crosspiece,


Feeling the paper snap
Tautly as a sheet, then lift
The almost weightless body
Up to where it hauled me


Trolling into the winds—
Knotted bows like vertebrae
Flashing among fields
Of light. Why ruin it


By recalling the aftermaths?
Kites gone down in tatters,
Kites fraying like flotsam
From the tops of the trees.


How does Gibb create this economy of expression? Simply put, through the music of his native tongue.  For example, notice the first two words — “Come March” — a colloquialism that is typical of the way we speak in this region.  He could have said “When March arrives” or “In early Spring”, but “Come March” is economical and accurate — so much expressive work is done by those two words.

Now look at the whole first line: “Come March we’d find them.” Notice the nasal consonance of the m’s complimented with the nd of find, how this musical sequence creates a gentle hum in the air. And notice the imagery of the poem: “furled tighter than umbrellas”, “flashing among fields/of light”. And note the nautical metaphors: “undertow,” “tensed keel of balsa,” “Tautly as a sheet.”


Also notice the meter of the poem:  a loose trochaic trimeter (three stresses per line, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables, beginning with a stressed syllable). This meter, most famously employed in Shelley’s “To a Skylark” but rarely used in contemporary American poetry, is an inspired choice for capturing the emphatic rhythms of the Mon Valley dialect. Gibb may have the most impeccable ear for the music of the American language of any poet since Robert Frost — who also liked to revive rare metrical forms and shape them to the rhythms of his regional dialect.

Certainly, it’s no exaggeration to say that Gibb paints the Mon Valley with the same precision that Frost did his native region. But unlike Frost’s New England which even now remains largely unspoiled, Gibb’s Mon Valley has disappeared beneath the asphalt parking lots of malls. The closing of the steel mills destroyed the town of Homestead, and Gibb’s vision is drawn from memory and imagination, grief and nostalgia. His on-going life’s work has been to create an elegy for a lost world.



Laure-Anne Bosselaar’s poems are unfailingly brief with a simple rhetorical structure – an anecdote, a description of a room, a guest list – within which she places highly evocative details. In her poetry, we glimpse other people’s lives in ways that are profound and provocative, often giving us an insight into an entire emotional landscape:


Bus Stop


Stubborn sleet. Traffic stuck on Sixth.
We cram the shelter, soaked, strain
to see the bus, except for a man next to me,
dialing his cellphone. He hunches,
pulls his parka’s collar over it, talks slow and low:
It’s daddy, hon. You do? Me too. Ask mom
if I can come see you now. Oh, okay, 
Sunday then. Bye. Me too baby. Me too.
He snaps the phone shut, cradles it to his cheek,
holds it there. Dusk stains the sleet, minutes
slush by. When we board the bus,
that phone is still pressed to his cheek.


Notice the redolent word choice. The alliterative adjectives stubborn and stuck in the first line describe the mood of both the weather and the protagonist. Then the verbs ‘cram,’ ‘strain’  and ‘hunches’ create a picture of an agitated man trapped between other people and closed to himself. After the first five lines in which the dramatic situation has been described, the emotional power of the poem is carried almost entirely by the three italicized lines the stranger speaks into his cellphone:


It’s daddy, hon. You do? Me too. Ask mom
if I can come see you now. Oh, okay, 
Sunday then. Bye. Me too baby. Me too.


In these lines, we hear the man’s tender feelings toward his daughter and intuit hers toward him. We feel his ex-wife hovering in the background, as well as the power she wields over the terms of his parenthood. We hear his request rebuffed, and the exchange of words of love between father and daughter. However, the poet allows the reader to interpret the situation without authorial interjection or interpretation. The poet shows but does not explain. “He snaps the phone shut, then cradles it to his cheek.” The contrast between snaps, an act of frustration, and cradles, an act of tenderness, is profound. The weather (Dusk stains; minutes / slush by) is an objective correlative of his dark mood. And yet he continues holding the phone to his cheek. His reluctance to let go of the phone is a loving gesture that contains a hint of frustration. Notice the repetition of the word cheek. We say someone has cheek or is cheeky, meaning they are being rude or presumptuous. Is this the way the ex-spouses think of each other? Was he being presumptuous in thinking he could see his daughter on short notice? Is the ex-wife being rude not to allow the unscheduled visit?  Bosselaar’s portrayal of a moment in this man’s life goes by as quickly as the moment itself, and we’re left with an insight into the heartbreak millions of men feel over forced separation from their children. The fact that this piece was written by a woman points toward the enormous empathy of this poet.

Sometimes, a Bosselaar poem evokes the ways we cope with loneliness, as in this poem where the poet invites imaginary guests to dinner, including the reader:


Tonight’s Dinner Companions


As the stew simmers on the stove, I set
a place at the table for


you, thin, dog-eared book I never tire
of dog-earing again,


& you, whirr in the wind, as you flutter
the book’s pages too,


& you, photo of a stout Flemish farmer
brandishing seven dead muskrats,


& you, memory of a Brussels attic: my hand
over my first lover’s hand on my heart — weighing,


& you, old poet, gone, whose lines I often
say aloud against the ocean’s constant shush,


& you, my love’s baseball cap, the one he kept
losing & is now on a shelf, never to be lost again,


& you, reader, to whom I have been writing
most of my life — here: this place is for you.


Don’t be fooled by the simplicity and directness of Bosselaar’s poems. Their precise music is hard-won. In a recent email conversation, I asked the poet about her writing process, and she said with characteristic specificity, that she writes as many as 41 drafts of a poem, beginning with babble, then talking to the poem as she writes it:


Yak & babble. Curse a lot. Then I find a few lines that stick out. Then I LISTEN to them.
I really listen.  Then I write TO them – not from them. As one would write a letter to
someone or something.


The principle that the poet is in conversation with the poem might explain the large leaps that happen between lines in many of Bosselaar’s poems. Notice in Tonight’s Dinner Companions that the entire poem is one sentence, and yet each two-line stanza represents a different type of experience: a much-read book, a favorite photograph, a lover’s baseball hat, and most important of all, the reader – that is, us. Each of these disparate items represents a familiar type, and together they make up the whole of her inner life. The subject of this poem is psychologically huge, and yet Bosselaar offers it to us in the conversational language of a guest list – one of the simplest linguistic structures. As for the reader directly addressed in the last two lines, Bosselaar said in her email:

I’m convinced that one cannot write without having an “ideal reader” in mind.  Sometimes, of course, that reader is one’s self – because one is trying to make sense of something that is nagging. But in many of my poems I address a “someone who just might be listening”…so that I feel less of an orphan and can trust I’ll be heard.


For people who know Bosselaar’s stellar reputation among American poets, it may seem strange to think of her as an outsider. She has, after all, published books with BOA and Four Way, two of the most highly regarded independent poetry presses in the country, she won the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry, and she served as Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara County, but these accomplishments, as laudable as they are, seem small potatoes for a poet of her brilliance and reputation. Why hasn’t she won major awards? Where is her Pulitzer, her National Book Award, her Ruth Lilly Prize? In part, the answer to this suspicion that she’s been given short shrift lies in the fact that she doesn’t quite fit into the literary culture of her adopted country. Bosselaar is not really an American poet, but rather a transnational migrant with one foot in America and one foot in Europe. Although she lists among her influences Larry Levis, Philip Levine, Lucille Clifton and Bridget Pegeen Kelly, her strongest influences, the ones she keeps returning to:


…are the French poets without whom I can’t keep breathing normally without returning to them over&over&over&over&over: my indispensable & heart-halleluja-ing French poet is the communist résistant Louis Aragon […] Sometimes I bellow his poems aloud when stuck in traffic, or when a darker thought comes slinking in. I know many of his poems by heart. And, yep, people stare at me verry suspiciously: “Wouldja look at that old lady talking to herself !” American scholars keep defining him as one of the first surrealists – wrong, wrong, wrong. He was part of the surrealist movement, but went on to write the most  sublime love, résistance & political poetry I know…


When I shared with Bosselaar my sense that in her poems she is standing outside American culture and looking in, she replied:


Ha, good question. Yes, in a way: I’m now ‘adopted’ by this country — but, having spent the first 46 years of my life in Belgium I’m, like so many, a ‘first generation American.’ […] I have never been able to describe this very efficiently – but I fell in love with English as one falls in love with a music that reaches your heart. I LOVE the English language, but often bring in idioms, expressions, even sounds from the French or Flemish.  I like to turn or tease syntax and play with its cadences and rhythms  — (as one would with an elastic band or how the Greek play with those beads on a string, you know?) — like the Flemish love to do (NOT play with elastics, but with syntax!)  Reading poetry aloud is one of my favorite things to do.


I followed up on this issue: “You grew up in Belgium, lived in NYC for quite a while, and in recent years in Southern California. How has your poetry been influenced by these different landscapes and cultures?”


Imagery, imagery, imagery, landscape, landscape, landscape.  Smell&touch&taste&sounds&light&the quality of the winds or walls or willows.. The color of the dirt. The sounds of the NY Subway compared to the tides and gulls!  I love where I live under an old jacaranda, with busy birds, and a lazy dog – no hurry here but to go walk on the cliffs or beach, and watch the ocean say: shshshsh, shshsh… it’s all right, Laure-Anne, it’s all-right….shshsh….shshshhh… And, by god, it IS!! The texture & smell of Eucalyptus trees compared to the yummy smells of food merchants in Manhattan, or poor grocery store flowers in Los Angeles. But you know what I mean, right? I don’t need to explain all that…


Besides being an immigrant to America and a poet of sophisticated taste and talent (she writes in four languages and is the author of Artémis, a collection of French poems, published in Belgium), Bosselaar is an outsider in another, more existential way. Born in 1943 in Belgium she was raised in a convent in Flanders in the 1940s and 50s:


My parents put me in a convent when I was almost 4 — and I grew up there until I was almost 18 and escaped. I DID have parents but: A. They didn’t want children and B: to add insult to injury, I was born a girl. They might have kept me had I been a boy. So, no, I’m not an orphan per se, although I almost never saw my parents…


Bosselaar speaks openly about the sexual abuse she survived: “Just like so many poor boys, girls were equally severely abused by nuns.”


“Do some memories trigger your imagination?” I prompted, using a loaded verb.


Always, always. And IMAGERY. That’s such a biggie for me. A gaze, pebble, sock or tomato sauce, & — pop! — I’m Proust. There are a handful of images that live in my house and garden, under my skin, or hide, cuddling in my heart. I love them like I love old friends. (And YOU!  Then the ones black-sharp with fear that I have been able to soothe & calm down a bit. The brutal sexual abuse (like you my dear dear brother), rape, beatings, rage. They still try to scare me those images – and almost succeed if I’m in the presence of any kind of human anger. I avoid this as much as I can. That’s why I have this soul-raping-and-heart-shredding, visceral disgust and it-hurts-in-all-my-insides hatred for Trump. He IS one of them: the thieves, liars, human-exploiters, racists, anti-Semite, women-beaters and rapists. My jaws hurt when I see/hear him. Sometimes, a memory will still make me stop what I’m doing and do all I can to stop my fear from buckling my knees. Still. After all these years…


So Bosselaar is an outsider in the literal sense, having immigrated to this country in middle age and taken up the tools of a literary culture not her own, and she’s also an outsider in the sense that she was rejected by her parents and raised by abusive guardians protected by a powerful institution. This formative experience of feeling abandoned, powerless, isolated and unloved has profoundly shaped the subjects and moods of her poems. Being an outsider is not only Bosselaar’s political status, but also her psychological identity, and the striving for clarity about complex existential challenges was a fact of her life long before she took up a career as an American poet. The power of her poetry lies in the reader sensing a swirling intensity beneath the polished surface.


Sometimes the subversive quality of a poem is clear and emphatic — for example Pablo Neruda’s poem The United Fruit Company in which the poet excoriates the multinational corporations that have exploited Latin America. However, as great as Neruda’s poem is, most of my favorite poems practice a more subtle subversion. For example, notice the nuanced tone and gentle rhythms in this poem by Jose Padua in which he captures the beauty of the evening rituals in a working-class family’s home:


And So the Brightness of Evening


I shine these minutes in the evening,
so heavy with the space of living,
rooms to walk into and leave, floors
to step upon to do a task and walk
away from. The end of the day is
like a polishing of time. You wipe
the table, I listen to its clearing from
the living room then take the plastic
bags of trash out the front door.
It’s a cleaning of the hours, and
for us, an emptying of what’s left
of the week. Work is what keeps
us here, what feeds us from bank
to store to hand to mouth. We keep
it clean, we let it get dirty, we mop,
we scrub, we rinse. Our clothes pile
up in the back of the house no matter
how hard we try to keep up with it.
We don’t try that hard. There are other
things to do, other things to see,
a show about tiny birds flying just
above the roofs; a book about the
end of the world, the stopping of
time, and the sailing of Greek boats.
Before I turn off the ceiling light
in the dining room I see the plates and
tumblers behind the cabinet’s glass
door gleam. It’s the quiet kind
of shining that moves us best,
a glowing with no need to make
its own sound, because upstairs
all the lights are switched on, and
I hear the soft voice of our daughter
getting ready for bed as she sings.


Of course, those who are familiar with Padua’s work know that he is also capable of harsh criticism of American attitudes, as in this poem in which the ambiguity of a single nod becomes an anthem for the uncertain times in which we live:


My True Love and Other Colors


Just off the exit
from the Interstate,
the man with the red, white,
and blue American
flag painted on the wall
of his garage has the words
Love These Colors or
Leave This Country
printed beneath it
in big bold letters,
and when he sees me
drive past he nods
at me so slowly
I can’t tell if it’s
more greeting or threat,
and because in twenty-first century
America I must consider
how a single movement
or motion can
mean two completely
different things
depending on who’s
doing the perceiving,
I nod back briefly and
quickly so as not to be misinterpreted
or misconstrued and
continue down the road
thinking only
about the colors
of the things in this world I
truly love.


Padua doesn’t express anger, but rather bafflement at the hostility toward him as a dark-skinned outsider living in rural white America. Even when Padua is being overtly political, he never loses his ability to modulate his ironic tone and spin breathtaking metaphors:


American Sadness 


Of all the sadness in the world
there is nothing that can compare
with American sadness. When
America is sad the whole world
weeps. Whenever one American
is sad, at least two non-Americans
somewhere else in the world consider
the possibility of ending it all. When
a hundred Americans are sad, wars
are fought in faraway lands for
the great purpose of making these
hundred Americans happy again.
When a million Americans are sad,
every flag in America droops, then
slides an inch and then another inch
down the flag pole and nothing can
stop this descent until bold, confident
smiles return to these Americans’ faces.
American sadness, let’s make it clear,
is exceptional. Unlike what you may
have heard, it doesn’t always talk
softly, but it always carries a big stick
because no one is sad the way an
American is sad. No one drags his feet
through the dullness of a day, or
walks with her eyes looking downward
quite as sadly as an American who
feels sad because America is losing
a battle, coming in second, or washing
ashore with empty pockets and bad breath.
American sadness, of course, is the greatest
sadness in the world—do not look it
in the eye unless your intention is
to make amends. Do not settle for a
knowing grin, or a sliding into place
of the proper order of thought or things.
Work hard, do your best, and fight
whenever a fist is called for, or a bomb
needs to be dropped upon a civilian population
whose greatest misfortune is not being American.
But above all, keep American sadness at bay
like a ship that wrecks off shore through
instability or from fault of navigation.
Let’s remember to keep America happy.
Let’s keep America entertained.


Born in Washington, DC in 1957 the son of Filipino immigrants, Padua has published only one book A Short History of Monsters, chosen by Billy Collins for the 2019 Miller Williams Prize. Padua has worked largely outside the established literary culture, having made his bones in the Spoken Word performance scene in New York in the 1980s, and if you’ve ever heard him perform his poems, you’ll be taken by the rich Nick Cave baritone in which he delivers the perfect rhythms of his poems. But this performance style has been, like Bosselaar’s clarity, hard-won. Padua identifies as a person with Tourette’s Syndrome, and also as someone on the autism spectrum. I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve wondered about this tension between a syndrome that compels someone to have uncontrollable bursts of language and a complex inner landscape that other people cannot hope to understand. I don’t want to take Padua’s struggles lightly (I’m on the spectrum myself), but these competing psychological forces must make for quite a party going on in Padua’s head. I’ve wondered whether Padua’s passion for clarity in his poems has its roots in a need to hold onto what is most certain. And yet, there’s an ironic tone to his poems, a wink and nod to the reader, as if he’s signaling that, like him, we’re aware of the tragic joke baked into American culture. The land of the free, indeed.

In capturing the beauty and terror of one life, Jose Padua’s poems are subtle, ironic, precise, and socially aware. Seeing an American flag painted on a garage, remembering the taste of meals that his mother learned to cook when she was growing up in the Philippines, putting his children to bed knowing that he cannot protect them from an unjust society, watching the evening news with a jaundiced eye – these are the moments Jose Padua evokes to wake us from our long unhappy American dream.


What Gibb, Bosselaar, and Padua have in common is an aesthetic of craft, coherence, and clarity, as well as a point-of-view from outside mainstream 21st century America. The dispossessed loner, the migrant survivor, the anguished misfit – these three poets rise above being a ‘type’ to dedicate themselves to the exacting music of their chosen language. The former steelworker mourns the loss of his home town, the decline of the American working class, and the erosion of the dignity of work. The Belgian-American immigrant writes in four languages while recovering from a traumatic childhood as an abandoned toddler raised by abusive nuns. The neurodivergent son of immigrants composes epodes about family life and ironic satires of a nation gone nuts. It’s not difficult to surmise the reasons why these three gifted poets have not been more successful in the American poetry field where disguised self-promotion takes precedence over inspired work. But there’s also a systemic problem: in recent decades poetry has become a means of political posturing, and poems need to be safe and nice, or angry and politically correct, to find a cross-over readership. Marketing a book to the self-help community, or to environmentalists, or to social justice activists, or to YA readers can be an effective strategy. I don’t blame poetry editors, of which I am one. The poetry field has become so crowded, a “drowned river” as Chard deNiord calls it, that editors need some means of focusing an anthology, or a press, in order to find a cross-over readership. Poets like Gibb, Bosselaar, and Padua whose work doesn’t easily fall into popular niches can be overlooked. I’ve never seen Robert, Laure-Anne or Jose at the AWP conference walking around with a checklist of influential people with whom they wanted to ‘network’ because their natural decency, honesty and humility make them constitutionally incapable of such a crass act of careerism. Nor have they written poems because they wanted to appeal to a specific audience. Authentic poets don’t have careers, they have lives. How remarkable it is to see three exceptional poets who allow their poems to speak for themselves.


Essay and compilation copyright 2023 Michael Simms. Passages of this essay have been
adapted from Simms’s blog ‘Notes from the Editor.’

‘Kites’ from Sheet Music by Robert Gibb, published by Autumn House Press, copyright
2012. Reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press and the author.

‘Bus Stop’ from A New Hunger by Laure-Anne Bosselaar, published by Ausable Press, copyright 2007 Laure-Anne Bosselaar. Reprinted by permission of the author.
‘Tonight’s Dinner Companions’ copyright 2023 Laure-Anne Bosselaar. First published in Vox Populi. Reprinted by permission of the author.
And So the Brightness of Evening’ copyright 2016 Jose Padua. First published in Vox Populi. Reprinted by permission of the author.
‘My True Love and Other Colors’ copyright 2016 Jose Padua. First published in Vox Populi. Reprinted by permission of the author.
‘American Sadness’ copyright 2015 Jose Padua. First published inVox Populi. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Michael Simms is the founding editor of Autumn House Press (1998-2016) and Vox Populi (2014-present). He is the co-author of The Longman Handbook and Dictionary of Poetry (Addison Wesley, 1985). His recent books include the poetry collections American Ash, Nightjar and Strange Meadowlark (Ragged Sky, 2020, 2021, 2023) and the novels Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy and The Green Mage: Volume One of the Talon Trilogy (Madville, 2022, 2023). In 2011, the State Legislature of Pennsylvania awarded Simms a Certificate of Recognition for service to the arts.