Ten new poems introduce Prodigal, followed by fifty poems, culled from Gregerson's five collections, that range broadly in subject from class in America to our world's ravaged environment to the wonders of parenthood to the intersection of science and art to the passion of the Roman gods, and beyond. This selection reinforces Gregerson’s standing as “one of poetry’s mavens . . . whose poetics seek truth through the precise apprehension of the beautiful while never denying the importance of rationality” (Chicago Tribune).
A brilliant stylist, known for her formal experiments as well as her perfected lines, Gregerson is a poet of great vision. Here, the growth of her art and the breadth of her interests offer a snapshot of a major poet's intellect in the midst of her career.
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About the Author
LINDA GREGERSON is the author of Waterborne, The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep, and Fire in the Conservatory. She teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at the University of Michigan. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry as well as in the Atlantic, Poetry, Ploughshares, the Yale Review, TriQuarterly, and other publications. Among her many awards and honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Kingsley Tufts Award.
Read an Excerpt
Night. Or what
they have of it at altitude
like this, and filtered
air, what was
in my lungs just an hour ago is now
there’s only so much air to go
around. They’re making
more people, my father would say,
but nobody’s making more land.
When my daughters
were little and played in their bath,
they invented a game whose logic
largely escaped me —
something to do with the
of bubbles and plastic ducks — until
I asked them what they called it. They
were two and four. The game
was Oil Spill.
Keeping the ducks alive, I think,
was what you were supposed to
contrive, as long
as you could make it last. Up here
in borrowed air,
in borrowed bits of heat, in costly
cubic feet of steerage we’re
held note, as when the choir would seem
to be more
than human breath could manage. In
the third age, says the story, they
divided up the earth. And that was when
the goddess turned away from them.
from De Arte Honeste Amandi
How Love, When It Has Been Acquired, May Be Kept
That was when the war was on, the one we felt good
to hate, so of course I thought he’d come from there.
It was June. The light grown long again.
She’d roll his chair to the window
and back. But no, you said, it was love.
They were getting it wrong.
A leg. A leg. An arm to the elbow.
Like the man who burned his daughter to get
good winds. The sea for days had been flat
as the sky. He’d walk while the light went down
and could only tell the water from the air by the drag
below his knees. So this is what it’s like
to have no body. A perfect benevolent temperature.
The wheels of the chariots grind
in the hulls of the ships. He lay so still he honeycombed,
may he be safe, may we be sound. The time
they bargained for came piece by piece.
Indications That One’s Love Has Returned
There’s an illness, of the sort that’s named for a man
who first imagines that disparate threads might be threads
on a loom, that is called his syndrome, and frightens
the weaver, who cannot unravel by night
what she sees in the day. Their table had the sun for hours.
The piazza was white. They talked
about physicians at home, whose stories were longer, if less
in accord. And about the morning months ago
when the color first spread beneath her eyes.
From cheekbone to cheekbone, the smallest vessels had burst
in a pattern called butterfly, they’d named that too,
as the tour guides name rocks till you can’t see the
anymore, but Witch’s Cauldron and Hornet’s Nest.
The wings went away. The course of the river that carved
is air now, and baffles intent. She’d been used to a different notion
of course, the kind you might follow for love of the thing
or of knowledge, the wings in the glass.
Table of Contents
The Wrath of Juno 5
The Weavers 7
The Dolphins 12
The Wrath of Juno 14
Ceres Lamenting 22
And Sometimes 26
From Fire in the Conservatory
From De Arte Honeste Amandi 33
Maudlin; Or, the Magdalen's Tears 36
Much Missed 40
Fire in the Conservatory 42
"Halfe a Yard of Rede Sea" 44
From The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep
The Bad Physician 49
For My Father, Who Would Rather Stay Home 52
An Arbor 61
Good News 65
For the Taking 69
The Resurrection of the Body 71
Creation Myth 84
With Emma at the Ladies-Only Swimming Pond on Hampstead Heath 90
The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep 103
Eyes Like Leeks 111
Noah's Wife 114
The Horses Run Back to Their Stalls 123
Pass Over 129
Narrow Flame 134
Grammatical Mood 135
From Magnetic North
Bright Shadow 154
Father Mercy, Mother Tongue 156
At the Window 160
The Turning 162
My Father Comes Back from the Grave 166
Over Easy 170
From The Selvage
The Selvage 183
Slight Tremor 185
Lately, I've taken to 188
Getting and Spending 191
Dido Refuses to Speak 195
From the Life of Saint Peter 204
Her Argument for the Existence of God 213
Still Life 215
Index of Titles and First Lines 227