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About this poet

Born on August 5, 1950, Linda Gregerson grew up in Illinois and received a BA from Oberlin College in 1971, an MA from Northwestern University, an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and her PhD from Stanford University.

Her books of poetry include The Selvage (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012); Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin, 2007); Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (1996), a finalist for both The Poet's Prize and the Lenore Marshall Award; and Fire in the Conservatory (1982).

She is also the author of literary criticism, including Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry (2001) and The Reformation of the Subject: Spenser, Milton, and the English Protestant Epic (1995).

About her work, the poet Rosanna Warren wrote, "Tender and harrowing, jagged, severely precise and floodlit with compassion, Linda Gregerson's poems break and mend poetic language as they break and mend the heart."

Her awards and honors include the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, the Consuelo Ford Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Isabel MacCaffrey Award from the Spenser Society of America, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize.

Gregerson teaches American poetry and Renaissance literature at the University of Michigan, where she also directs the MFA program in creative writing. She lives with her husband and two daughters.

Bicameral

Linda Gregerson, 1950
1

Choose any angle you like, she said,
the world is split in two. On one side, health

and dumb good luck (or money, which can pass
for both), and elsewhere . . . well,

they're eight days from the nearest town,
the parents are frightened, they think it's their fault,

the child isn't able to suck. A thing
so easily mended, provided

you have the means. I've always thought it was
odd, this part (my nursing school

embryology), this cleft in the world
that has to happen and has to heal. At first

the first division, then the flood of them, then
the migratory plates that make a palate when

they meet (and meeting, divide
the chambers, food

from air). The suture through which (the upper
lip) we face the world. It falls

a little short sometimes, as courage does.
Bolivia once, in May (I'd volunteer

on my vacations), and the boy was nine.
I know the world has harsher

things, there wasn't a war, there wasn't
malice, I know, but this one

broke me down. They brought him in
with a bag on his head. It was

burlap, I think, or sisal. Jute.
They hadn't so much as cut eyeholes.


2
(Magdalena Abakanowicz)

Because the outer layer (mostly copper
with a bit of zinc) is good for speed

but does too little damage (what
is cleaner in the muzzle—you've begun

to understand—is also cleaner in
the flesh), the British at Dum Dum (Calcutta) devised

an "open nose," through which
the leaden core, on impact, greatly

expands (the lead being softer). Hence
the name. And common enough in Warsaw

decades later (it was 1943), despite
some efforts in The Hague. I don't

remember all of it, he wasn't even German,
but my mother's arm—

that capable arm—was severed at
the shoulder, made (a single

shot) a strange thing altogether.
Meat. I haven't been able since

to think the other way is normal, all
these arms and legs.

This living-in-the-body-but-not-of-it.


3

Sisal, lambswool, horsehair, hemp.
The weaver and her coat-of-manyharrowings.

If fiber found in situ, in
agave, say, the living cells that drink

and turn the sun to exoskeleton,
is taken from the body that

in part it constitutes (the
succulent or mammal and its ex-

quisite osmotics), is
then carded, cut, dissevered

in one fashion or another from
the family of origin, and

gathered on a loom,
the body it becomes will ever

bind it to the human and a trail
of woe. Or so

the garment argues. These
were hung as in an abattoir.

Immense (12 feet and more from upper
cables to the lowest hem). And vascular,

slit, with labial
protrusions, skeins of fabric like

intestines on the gallery floor.
And beautiful, you understand.

As though a tribe of intimates (the
coronary plexus, said the weaver) had

been summoned (even such
a thing the surgeon sometimes has

to stitch) to tell us, not unkindly, See,
the world you have to live in is

the world that you have made.

"Bicameral" from Magnetic North. Copyright © 2007 by Linda Gregerson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

"Bicameral" from Magnetic North. Copyright © 2007 by Linda Gregerson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson

Poet Linda Gregerson's book Waterborne won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and her book The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award

by this poet

poem
          1

The world's a world of trouble, your mother must
                    have told you
          that. Poison leaks into the basements

and tedium into the schools. The oak
                    is going the way
          of the elm in the upper Midwest—my cousin

earns a living by taking the dead ones
poem
The fine fourth finger
of his fine right hand,

just slightly, when
he's tracking our path

on his iPhone or
repairing the clasp

on my watch I
will not think about

the myelin sheath.
Slight tremor only,

transient, so
the flaw in the

pavement must
have been my

mother's back.
poem
Dark still. Twelve degrees below freezing. 
            Tremor along
      the elegant, injured right front

leg of the gelding on the cross-ties. Kneeling 
            girl.
      The undersong of waters as she bathes

the leg in yet more cold. [tongue is broken] 
            [god to me]
      Her hair the