Libation (2006), Co-Winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition, selected by Kwame Dawes
What begins as a trip to Ghana for a white woman becomes a journey that as told by Gleason, eschews cliché and yet flirts with every stereotype of the white woman in a poor African country. Yet she emerges with a work that is aware of all the pitfalls of such a journey and manages to dance through unscathed because of the sharp honesty of her insight and the humanity of her imagination. Beyond that is the sheer strength of language – it’s care for detail and its love of music and pleasure despite the toughness of subject matter. There is a nightmare at the core of these poems, and, indeed, a woman is finding herself, her voice, her own meaning as she discovers a world that is alien to her. It would be easy to simply embrace this work for its dance with the exotic, but Gleason’s poetic instincts are too muscular and sharply self-aware for that. What she creates are poems that make you hold your breath with fear, anxiety and a deep desperate desire for something like redemption. In “White Nightgown” she turns a moment of real illness into the most eloquent and terrible of metaphors:
I hold in my hands a bloody mass. I coughed it up last night and I don't know what to do with it. Part of me wants to bury it like a placenta. Or maybe I should eat it, put it back inside. I didn't know I had it in me, such gore. I heaved it up with one long groan.
– Kwame Dawes, Contest Judge