Among Ruins is the final volume of Homestead Works, a collection of four books of poetry that explore the industrial past and legacy of the old steel town of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and, by extension, Pittsburgh. National Poetry Series–winner Robert Gibb’s haunting historical narratives capture the Steel City, “Where the crucible mills poured fire, / Slag erupted nightly above the other shore.” The ruins in this book are various—personal, historical, cultural—and are filtered through a variety of perspectives, including the poet’s own as well as those of visual artists (Aaron Harry Gorson and Lewis Hine) who have made Pittsburgh their subject and artists (James Whistler, Eugène Atget, J. M. W. Turner) who have been imagined here.
The town of Homestead exists as a kind of Memory Theater in which what has been lost takes place either directly or in the ghosts of pentimento: “I look down a block / Of Homestead,” as one poem has it, “from which Homestead is gone.” Situating itself in the immediate aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, Among Ruins also concerns itself with labor history, life in the shadows of the now-phantom steel mills, and economic recovery that has gone missing as well. Readers will be captivated by Gibb’s plaintive, spare poems and memories of this beloved city: “’Pittsburgh meant everything to me / and it still does.’”
“Once again Robert Gibb has found a gritty, searing, haunting, bluesy lyricism in the heart of industrial America. His poems remember growing up in and around Pittsburgh, where he still lives amid the ruins and art and photos and repurposed structures where memories remain most available, most scalding. Whether dealing with the danger of steel or steam, the inescapable clamor of machinery, or the shenanigans of youth shadowed and bounded by factory life, Gibb’s fiercely elegant poems explore how a city, a landscape, a person ‘could / heal and yet still be broken.’” — Floyd Skloot, author of In the Shadow of Memory
“‘Pittsburgh looks celestial, hovering in mid-air,’ Robert Gibb writes in one of the translucent poems that make up Among Ruins. In this magisterial book, Gibb makes his native Pittsburgh native ground, art object, and myth. Whether recalling a gray childhood, jobs he once worked, or meditating on the photographs of W. Eugene Smith or Clyde Hare, Gibb gives us poems that can both tell a story and stop us in our tracks at an unexpected insight. ‘This is the house my memory has kept for me,’ one poem says, and we want to follow those words through each room of that large and varied house.” — Al Maginnes, author of Taking Up Our Daily Tools and The Light in Our Houses