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Recorded at the Chancellors Reading, Poets Forum 2015. NYU Skirball Center. New York City.

About this poet

Linda Gregerson was born on August 5, 1950, in Elgin, Illinois. She 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 Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015); The Selvage (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012); Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007), a finalist for the National Book Award; Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996), a finalist for both The Poet’s Prize and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and Fire in the Conservatory (Dragon Gate Press, 1982).

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

About her work, the poet Rosanna Warren writes, "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, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize.

In 2015, Gregerson was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She 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 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015)
The Selvage (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)
The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin, 1996)
Fire in the Conservatory (Dragon Gate Press, 1982)

Prose

Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2001)
The Reformation of the Subject: Spenser, Milton, and the English Protestant Epic (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Font

At the foot of the download anchored
                                             among
                                   the usual flotsam of ads,

this link: to plastics-express.com who for
                                             a fraction
                                   of the retail price can

solve my underground drainage woes, which
                                             tells me
                                   the software has finally

run amok. Because the article, you see,
                                             recounts
                                   the rescue from a sewage

pipe of Baby 59, five pounds,
                                             placenta still
                                   attached, in Zhejiang

Province, where officials even as I read
                                             are debating
                                   the merits of throwing

the mother in jail. Communal
                                             toilet. Father
                                   nowhere to be found.

The gods in their mercy once
                                             could turn
                                   a frightened girl to

water or a shamed one to a tree,
                                             but they
                                   no longer seem

to take our troubles much
                                             to heart.
                                   And so the men with

hacksaws do their gentle best—consider
                                             the infant
                                   shoulders, consider the lids—

and this one child among millions,
                                             delivered
                                   a second time to what

we still call breathable air, survives
                                             to pull
                                   the chords of sentiment

and commerce.
                                             Don’t make the poem
                                   too sad, says Megan,

thinking at first (we both of us
                                             think) the child
                                   must be a girl or otherwise

damaged, thus (this part she doesn’t
                                             say) like her.
                                   Who is the ground

of all I hope and fear for in the world.
                                             Who’ll buy?
                                   Or as the hawkers

on the pavement used to put it, What
                                             d’you lack?
                                   The download comes with

pictures too. Of workmen, wrenches,
                                             bits of shattered
                                   PVC, and one for whom

the whole of it—commotion, cameras,
                                             IV needle in the scalp—
                                   is not more strange

than ordinary daylight.
                                             Welcome, Number
                                   59. Here’s milk

from a bottle and here’s a nearly
                                             human hand.

From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson

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 Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

        Linda,
said my mother when the buildings fell,

before, you understand, we knew a thing
        about the reasons or the ways
       
        and means,
while we were still dumbfounded, still

bereft of likely narratives, we cannot
       

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
2
poem

                                   1.

The backstory’s always of hardship, isn’t it?
                       No-other-choices and hoping-for-better
            on foreign shores. A minute ago, as measured

by the sand dunes here, the shipping lanes were thick
                       with them