poem index

About this poet

Born in Suffern, New York on September 9, 1942, Linda Gregg grew up in Marin County, California. She received her BA and MA from San Francisco State University.

Her first book of poems, Too Bright to See, was published in 1981. Since then, she has published several collections of poetry, including: All of It Singing (Graywolf Press, 2008), the 2009 recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; In the Middle Distance (2006); Things and Flesh (1999); Chosen by the Lion (1994); The Sacraments of Desire (1991); Alma (1985); and Eight Poems (1982).

About Gregg's work, the poet W. S. Merwin has said, "I have loved Linda Gregg's poems since I first read them. They are original in the way that really matters: they speak clearly of their source. They are inseparable from the surprising, unrolling, eventful, pure current of their language, and they convey at once the pain of individual loss, a steady and utterly personal radiance."

Gregg's honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Whiting Writer's Award, as well as multiple Pushcart Prizes. She was the 2003 winner of the Sara Teasdale Award and the 2006 PEN/Voelcker Award winner for Poetry.

She has taught at the University of Iowa, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley. She currently lives in New York and teaches at Princeton University.

Asking for Directions

Linda Gregg, 1942
We could have been mistaken for a married couple
riding on the train from Manhattan to Chicago
that last time we were together. I remember
looking out the window and praising the beauty
of the ordinary: the in-between places, the world
with its back turned to us, the small neglected
stations of our history. I slept across your
chest and stomach without asking permission
because they were the last hours. There was
a smell to the sheepskin lining of your new
Chinese vest that I didn't recognize. I felt
it deliberately. I woke early and asked you
to come with me for coffee. You said, sleep more,
and I said we only had one hour and you came.
We didn't say much after that. In the station,
you took your things and handed me the vest,
then left as we had planned. So you would have
ten minutes to meet your family and leave.
I stood by the seat dazed by exhaustion
and the absoluteness of the end, so still I was
aware of myself breathing. I put on the vest
and my coat, got my bag and, turning, saw you
through the dirty window standing outside looking
up at me. We looked at each other without any
expression at all. Invisible, unnoticed, still.
That moment is what I will tell of as proof
that you loved me permanently. After that I was
a woman alone carrying her bag, asking a worker
which direction to walk to find a taxi.

From All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems by Linda Gregg. Copyright © 2009 by Linda Gregg. Used by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

Linda Gregg

Linda Gregg

The author of several collections of poetry, Linda Gregg's collection All of It Singing was the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

by this poet

poem
Eight deer on the slope
in the summer morning mist.
The night sky blue.
Me like a mare let out to pasture.
The Tao does not console me. 
I was given the Way 
in the milk of childhood. 
Breathing it waking and sleeping.
But now there is no amazing smell
of sperm on my thighs,
no spreading it on my stomach
to show
poem
Very long ago when the exquisite celadon bowl
that was the mikado's favorite cup got broken,
no one in Japan had the skill and courage
to mend it. So the pieces were taken back
to China with a plea to the emperor
that it be repaired. When the bowl returned, 
it was held together with heavy iron staples.
The
poem
When I say transparency, I don't mean seeing through. 
I mean the way a symbol is made when an X is drawn over O.
As the world moves when it is named. In the sense 
of truth by consciousness, which we translate as opposites.
The space we breathe is also called distance.
Presence gives. Absence allows and calls,