Thanks to poetry assistant Iris Dunkle for writing this profile.
The poet and scholar Linda Gregerson begins her spectacular poem, “Bicameral,” with the line:
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,
Indeed, in Gregerson’s work the reader enters a world that has been halved and asks us to examine it. One hears a voice that is concurrently tender and intellectual, domestic and worldly, scientific and literary; where the journey, however difficult, often offers a philosophical conclusion. As one sees in the ending of “Bicameral” where, after reflecting on meeting a boy with a harelip in Bolivia whose parents kept a bag over his head, and the sculptures of Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowic, the speaker ends with a revelation brought about by looking at a work of fiber art that’s meant to recall the body split open. Her revelation fuses the once bicameral world into one that is whole, but self-crafted:
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.
It is this courageous act of braiding introspection with research and experience that produces Gregerson’s stunningly reflective poems.
Gregerson was born in 1950 and raised in Cary, Illinois. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College, in Ohio, her M.A. from Northwestern University, M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She currently holds the Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professorship at the University of Michigan and teaches in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College.
Gregerson has published five collections of poetry, including Fire in the Conservatory (Dragon’s Gate, 1982), The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), and most recently The Selvage (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). For her poetry she has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and she has received the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, and many other distinctions. In addition to the contributions of her poetry, she is also an influential literary scholar. Her The Reformation of the Subject: Spenser, Milton and the English Protestant Epic appeared in 1995 from the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, and Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry was published in 2001 as part of the Poets on Poetry series from the University of Michigan Press.
The poet Rosanna Warren writes about Gregerson’s work, “[t]ender 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.”
We are so excited that Linda Gregerson will be joining us as faculty at this year’s conference. Mark your calendar to see her read her work on Monday, July 29, 2013, at Beringer Vineyards at 7 p.m., or attend her craft lecture on Thursday, August 1, 2013, at 9 a.m. at the Upper Valley Campus of Napa Valley College in St. Helena. For full details, see the Lectures & Readings page.
To read more of her work before the conference visit the links below:
• “Narrow Flame”