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Indelible by Becky Gould Gibson
Winner of the 2018 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize
"'Unless I tell you you will never know never even know my name.' This riveting declaration comes in the final line of the opening of Indelible. Becky Gould Gibson's ensuing collection is apocryphal, retelling the story of Lydia of Thyatira—regarded as the first convert to Christianity in Europe and by many as a saint. In Gibson's able hands, 'Lydia' takes her place among these figurations—as an apostle and simply as a woman with a story previously unheard. Borrowing from feminist interpretation of Christian text, Gibson's sequence of dramatic monologues answers the opening poem's challenge. Through Indelible's finely wrought poems, the 'Lydian woman' is given not only a name but a history, a voice, and flesh."
—Shara McCallum, final judge of the 2018 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize
"To tell this story in verse, Becky Gould Gibson dons masks—personnae in Latin—to give an unnamed and exceptional woman in history her due, along with the 'named and unnamed sisters/ tossed on the bone heap' of the Bible—now, and in every era. 'Lydia,' a seller of luxury purple cloth, speaks with Ms. Magazine and Christianity Today, aches for companionship, cross-examines herself, and reveals fiery relationships with Paul, her mom, her buyer, her supplier, the Dead Saint and her own faith. Even the voice of a Road-Stone chimes in to support her. 'Who has the best story?' she demands. With Impishness, heart, respect, and scholarship, Indelible makes her voice heard."
—JoAnn Balingit, former Poet Laureate of Delaware
Indelible tells a story in verse of the dealer in purple cloth called "Lydia" by the writer of Acts 16. According to this brief account, the woman is so moved by Paul’s preaching that she agrees to be baptized on the spot. Indelible consists of her letters between 49 and 64 CE alongside her conversations with visitors to present-day Philippi. The narrative traces her initial excitement with Paul’s teachings, then her increasing doubt. The central conceit of the book is that twenty centuries after Christianity has spread the globe the Lydian woman is still struggling to come to terms not only with Paul’s message but also with subsequent attempts by the Church to silence women.
Becky Gould Gibson, Ph.D (UNC-Chapel Hill, 1977), taught English and Women's Studies at Guilford College until her retirement in 2008. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including Kalliope, Feminist Studies, The Comstock Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Tampa Review, Poetry South, and The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume VII (Texas Review Press, 2014)). Gibson has previously published seven poetry collections, notably, Aphrodite's Daughter (2006 X.J. Prize, Texas Review Press, 2007); Need-Fire (2005 Poetry Book Contest, Bright Hill Press, 2007); and The Xanthippe Fragments (St. Andrews University Press, 2016). The last two books give voice to women whose words are missing from the historical record: Hild, Abbess of Whitby (615-680), and Socrates' wife Xanthippe. Indelible is a third poetic sequence in that vein. Becky lives with her husband and their canary in Winston-Salem.