About the Author
Listening for a Voice
Margaret Gibson, author of “Thou Shalt Not Kill”
Margaret Gibson wrote her essay, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” to “record a world that is vanishing,” she says. She wrote the memoir, in which she recalls learning about life and death in her childhood rural home, to hear her own voice-a voice that she says is diminishing daily under the onslaught of commercialism. She believes the memoir fulfills this preservational function in society. “We need to hear ourselves,” she says, “and to hear others speaking from an impulse deeper than the voices that swarm over us, selling themselves or a product.”
Gibson identifies a particular voice in this memoir that propelled her to craft the piece as it is. The piece began as “random memories” and notes about her childhood in a journal with no vision of a longer narrative. She planned not to revise these notes.
“But I did,” she says, “once I began to see how detailed the memories were and how they began, seemingly on their own, to stitch themselves into a pattern.”
She had not expected her notes to take on an organization, and she thinks this process of organization resulted from the development of a narrative voice. Gibson noticed, as she kept the journal regularly, that a tone of coherence was emerging-a voice that wanted to pull the notes together into a pattern, without trying to comment upon the arrangement.
“I was most pleased at the way this voice avoided explanation and exposition, folding a minimum of these into what became a narrative,” she says.
Gibson was also pleased with the memoir’s sensory lushness, as in her mouth-watering recollection of the food her mother put on the table: “Garden peas or limas, sliced beets, shelled black-eyed peas, mounds of mashed potatoes, or new potatoes cooked in their skins, quartered and bathed in butter.” Gibson has written meditative lyric poems and books of poems that employ an overall narrative thrust, and she attributes the attention to detail in “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and its careful phrasing to her experience with writing poetry.