poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Linda Gregerson: Dear Poet 2016

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 to 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, 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 to 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)

Heliotrope

(Olivier Theatre, South Bank)

I was his favorite, simply that.
                      And you can see

for yourself why it might have been so:
                     the lushest, least

likely to weary the eyes of all
                     the serried wavelengths.

Never obvious.
                     My bit

of the spectrum unstable somehow,
                     in a way that kept

bringing him back. Search
                     image

on your browser and you’ll see
                     what I mean.

I’ve never had the advantage of
                     sculptural

beauty, as the lily has, I haven’t
                     been able to boast

that stricture of line. That making-
                    no-mistakes. God

knows I’ve wished for it, beggars
                     can dream.

But no. Some neither-this-nor
                    that turns out to be

my sphere. Some manyness rather
                     than singular

perfection. Which I like to think
                     he thought about.

He made this place.
                     They named it

for him. And upholstered the seats
                     in heliotrope,

whose cluster of vowels and con-
                     sonants

he loved like my blue-going-violet-
                     with-touches-of-

gray. The vocal colors. Warm-up,
                     nightly, before

the play. So you see, they were
                     wrong, the ones

who called me unrequited. I
                     was in his throat,

among the folds and ridges and
                     beyond them to

the very dome upon whose curve
                     the heart resides.

Just think what it used to be then,
                     in the hour before

they’d let the rest of you in:
                     my many faces toward

the sun who spoke—no, sang—
                     my name.

Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of the author.

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 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

Copper and ginger, the plentiful
      mass of it bound, half loosed, and
            bound again in lavish

      disregard as though such heaping up
were a thing indifferent, surfeit from
            the table of the gods, who do

            not give a thought to fairness, no,

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.