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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)

Sweet

        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
        continue to live in a world where we

        have so much
and other people have so little.

Sweet, he said.
        Your mother’s wrong but sweet, the world

        has never self-corrected,
you Americans break my heart.

Our possum—she must be hungry or
        she wouldn’t venture out in so

        much daylight—has found
a way to maneuver on top of the snow.

Thin crust. Sometimes her foot breaks through.
        The edge

        of the woods for safety or
for safety’s hopeful look-alike. Di-

delphis, “double-wombed,” which is
        to say, our one marsupial:

        the shelter then
the early birth, then shelter perforce again.

Virginiana for the place. The place
        for a queen

        supposed to have her maidenhead.
He was clever.

He had moved among the powerful.
        Our possum—possessed

        of thirteen teats, or so
my book informs me, quite a ready-made

republic—guides
        her blind and all-but-embryonic

        young to their pouch
by licking a path from the birth canal.

Resourceful, no? Requiring
        commendable limberness, as does

        the part I’ve seen, the part
where she ferries the juveniles on her back.

Another pair of eyes above
        her shoulder. Sweet. The place

        construed as yet-to-be-written-upon-
by-us.

And many lost. As when
        their numbers exceed the sources of milk

        or when the weaker ones fall
by the wayside. There are

principles at work, no doubt:
        beholding a world of harm, the mind

        will apprehend some bringer-of-harm,
some cause, or course,

that might have been otherwise, had we possessed
        the wit to see.

        Or ruthlessness. Or what? Or heart.
My mother’s mistake, if that’s

the best the world-as-we’ve-made-it
        can make of her, hasn’t

        much altered with better advice. It’s
wholly premise, rather like the crusted snow.

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
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
Sun at the zenith. Greening
            earth.
  Slight buckling of the left
 
hind leg. And all this while
            the girl
  at his ear good boy and now
 
the hip giving way and mildly as
            was ever
2
poem
It’s another sorry tale about class in America, I’m sure
		you’re right,
	but you have to imagine how proud we were.

Your grandfather painted a banner that hung from Wascher’s
		Pub
	to Dianis’s Grocery across the street: Reigh Count,

Kentucky Derby Winner, 1928.  
		And washtubs filled
	with French champagne.