“13th Balloon” by Mark Bibbins— A Personal Elegy

Bibbins, Mark. “13th Balloon”, Copper Canyon Press, 2020.

A Personal Elegy

Amos Lassen

Mark Bibbins in his fourth poetry collection, “13thBalloon” looks at the American AIDS epidemic. He has dedicated this collection to Mark Crast, his former lover and friend who was a victim pf the epidemic and died when he was just 25-years-old. Here is a look at his persona loss against the larger societal tragic event. We read of intolerance, and “the intimate consequences of mismanaged power.” There are still really no words to express how we were affected by AIDS and Bibbins helps us understand that there is value and importance in continuing to wonder what to say and how to grapple. Bibbins dares to say what so many of us cannot utter.

This collection is not about the gay rights movement or AIDs but about his lover and friend who died, and for whom he continues to grieve. Bibbins shares his own background as a gay youth and a gay man. His writing comes from a place of deep personal pain and experience. Injustice is at the center of the collection and it is the reason that we have these gorgeous poems.
In each stanza, Bibbins tries to put his soul back together and to reconnect with his loss. Both a discussion of loss and a commentary on the AIDS crisis, the poet is both personal and political. He shares what  it means to lose someone physically and how we carry them with you into our own future, and the cost of  remembering.

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