"Instead of a poem today...this from the Post...it is so close to what I imagine being able to get to in my writing, someday...... it is my intention."
I read this, and know I need to read the poems of Linda Gregg. What she says, I want one day, also, to say, and maybe her saying it is enough.
By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, February 19, 2006;
"Poetry is a Destructive Force." That sentence is the title of a poem by Wallace Stevens, meaning among other things that poetry breaks and devours comforting sentiments, soothing language, elevated humbug, wishful thinking. It re-imagines in language what we are used to. It presents anew what we thought or meant to say or expected to see a moment before encountering the poem. Stevens imagines poetry as a lion, "a violent beast."
The violence is figurative, not the literal splash and crash of special effects. It menaces or devours not flesh and blood but cozy preconceptions. In keeping with that consuming force, here is a poem from Linda Gregg's new book:
The woman walks up the mountain
and then down. She wades into the sea
and out. Walks to the well,
pulls up a bucket of water
and goes back into the house.
She hangs wet clothes.
Takes clothes back to fold them.
Every evening she crochets
from six until dark.
Birds, flowers, stars. Her rabbit lives
in an empty donkey pen. The sea is out
there as far as the stars.
No one there. She may not believe
in anything. Not know
what she is doing. Every morning
she waters the geranium plant.
And the leaves smell like lemons.
Specific realities like the rabbit in an empty donkey pen have a shorn quiddity beyond philosophizing. To quote another Stevens title, her image invokes not ideas about the thing but the thing itself. The leaves smell like lemons, "and that was all" -- a phrase that concludes Robert Frost's great poem "The Most of It," on a similar subject, the idea of pure being, perception without preconception.
Here is another poem by Gregg on that theme:
Of course there is the otherness,
right away inside you when
the doe steps carefully down
the embankment. Then clatter
of hoof and the dappled water
with leaf shade. The otherness
and the invisible until you came.
Here the jabber of consciousness is changed by perceiving something out of the ordinary. The otherness of the natural tableau is "right away inside you": The poem notes the parts of that setting: the hoof, its clatter, the dappled water, the leaf shade. And that naming of parts makes the scene alive, inside the poet, the thing that was invisible before she came to apprehend it and -- in the words of Stevens's poem about the destructive lion -- "feel it breathing there."
(Linda Gregg's poems "Being" and "The Otherness" are from her book
"In the Middle Distance."
Copyright © 2006 by Linda Gregg.)