Carol Gilbertson

"What has kept me going is the grace and surprise of the encounter—with people, with character and story, with idea, with elegant language . . . I felt privileged to be living—each day in the classroom—at the heart of that encounter. In retirement there will be many joys, but I will surely miss that particular richness."

Carol Gilbertson, Professor Emerita of English, grew up at Luther College, or so it would seem. After teaching at Luther for 43 years, she retired in Spring 2011. An Augustana (SD) grad, an MA from North Carolina, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota with a specialization in seventeenth-century British literature, she has published on John Milton but also twentieth-century poets T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. As Jones Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in 2002-04, she developed the Luther Poetry Project, which brought poems into the foreground of campus life. She taught courses in British Romanticism and Twentieth-Century literature as well as Milton. Her deep love is poetry: she not only has relished leading students into a love of language and cadence, but she often travels to hear poets reading their work, and she publishes her poems in a range of journals. Her chapbook of poems, From a Distance, Dancing (Finishing Line Press) was published in November 2011. 

On the Train from Krakow

Outside the window
herds of white birches unleafed,
skeletal.  I remember Yellowstone
after the fire—hill, valley, hill, valley—
thousands of pine trunks
standing scorched in mid-summer
like wartime photos of ghost bodies
staring from camp fences.

At Auschwitz the guide,
in memorized English, detailed the scope
and efficiency of the demolition.  Pointing
to one crematorium and then its twin
across the road, she did not notice her slip:
These two are miracle images.

The trains left indelible tracks
which still end abruptly at the heart of the camp
as did their hordes of terrified passengers,
each one bearing a singular name.

At Josepha Synagogue the walls
seemed papered with an intricate design.
I wanted to touch but leaning in close
discovered finely-lettered script,
name after name in rows—each
life-line mirroring the next—
like tiny cars on a track.

From From a Distance, Dancing. First appeared in The MacGuffin, as runner-up in 14th Annual Poet Hunt, 2009