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Sunday Poem – Linda Gregerson

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It is glorious sunshine today here, though half of the garden is already in shadow, now that it is mid-afternoon. The hawthorn tree is still covered in red berries, and at the bottom of the garden, the laurel bushes that we chopped down two years ago have grown back to chest height.

Last week was the first full week of the schools being back in action.  People keep whether I think I’ll miss it.  I don’t feel like I’ve really had time to miss anything yet – although what does feel strange is that the passing of time will not be marked in quite the same way anymore, by school holidays and term times.

Monday night will be difficult, because it’s the first band rehearsal back for Barrow Shipyard Junior Band.  I’ve decided to fill up my first free Monday evening to keep my mind off it and stop myself turning up at the bandroom, so I’ll be using my newly bought 1 month gym membership and going for a ‘Total Abs’ session, which I’m sure will take my mind off things.  After that I’ve got Soul Band rehearsal, so I’m hoping Monday evening will be over before I know it.

Last week I had another blissful week of not rushing around, although I did work quite hard at my desk.  I’m interviewing the American writer Sarah Kennedy for a journal, so I’ve been steadily making my way through her four novels and five poetry collections.  I’ve finished the poetry collections and am onto the first novel now.  I’ve already got a few questions I want to ask – and it has been a wonderful experience to read all of her work in one go, and to start to pull out threads and concerns that unite both her poetry and her prose.

I’ve also been working on my BBC commission to write a poem in the voice of a local landmark.  This is proving challenging (she says, keeping the rising panic from her voice) but I have a little bit of time left still.  I’ve also worked on a new poem this week, cheered on by my lovely writing room, and I’ve been reading various poets, looking for someone who is writing about feminism and sexism in a way that might be useful to my PhD.

Other things – a 5k race on Wednesday – 4th female back but no personal best time (missed it by 13 seconds).  I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop all day yesterday – nine participants and the standard was very high.  We looked at poems by Jennifer L.Knox, Sharon Olds, Li-Young Lee and Luke Kennard.

After I’d finished the workshop I had an hour to eat and then it was straight back out to Kendal, where I read at Sprint Mill alongside lots of other poets – Hannah Hodgson, Caroline Gilfillan, Mark Carson, Mark Ward, Harriet Fraser, Geraldine Green and Luke Brown. It was organised by Karen Lloyd, who did a wonderful job of hosting, despite having a broken arm.  Sprint Mill is a fascinating place, and it is open for the next week or so for visitors as the C-Art exhibition is on.

Next week I have my Induction Day as an Associate Lecturer at MMU.  I’m hoping it is not like INSET was as a music teacher (i.e boring).  It surely can’t be as bad as that? I’m also the MC for A Poem and a Pint’s next event – the wonderful Hollie McNish will be coming to perform for us in Ulverston on the 17th September.  The event is taking place at the Laurel and Hardy Musuem and starts at 7.30pm.  There is an open mic, but we’re expecting this event to be busy, so don’t be late!

I’m really excited about this week’s Sunday Poem by the wonderful American poet Linda Gregerson.  I wrote a review of Linda’s latest book ‘Prodigal: New and Selected Poems’ for Poem magazine and I’m a huge fan of her work.

Writing out this poem was a wonderful exercise – the lines swoop back and forth, but reading Linda’s work is like reading a musical score.  The form of the tercet, with its short ‘pivot’ line in the middle, is a structure that Linda comes back to again and again.  The suffering of children, and how to witness suffering is another topic that she returns to.

This was one of the poems that I picked out in the review – it feels when you are reading it that you are discovering something along with the writer.  I only just noticed in the poem the three colours of traffic lights, in order at the end – finishing with the ‘bright red helmet.’  The craft of this poem is at work underneath the surface, so those phrases that loop back and forth feel effortless.  I also love the asides that Linda uses in this poem and throughout her work – I think they work to draw the reader in, but they are also beautifully measured and paced.

I would really recommend Linda’s book – if you’d like to read the full review of the book, you can subscribe to Poem you’ll also find fantastic poetry and essays in this magazine, edited by Fiona Sampson.

Linda Gregerson’s honours include a Guggenheim fellowship, four Pushcart Prizes, a Kingsley Tufts Award, and the selection of her collection Magnetic North as a National Book Award finalist.  Gregerson is a professor at the University of Michigan.  Her poetry has appeared in the Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, the Yale Review and many other publications.  She lives in Michigan.

You can order her book Prodigal: New and Collected Poems here.  Thanks to Linda for allowing me to use her wonderful poem this week.

 

The Resurrection of the Body – Linda Gregerson
)))))((for Caroline Bynum

She must have been thirteen or so, her nascent
************breasts
******just showing above the velcro strap

that held her in her chair.
*************Her face
******translucent, beautiful,

as if a cheekbone might directly render
*************a tranquil
******heart.  And yet

the eyes were all dis-
************quietude.
*****The mother with her miraculous

smile, frequent, durable, lifted
************the handkerchief-
*****you know the way a woman

will? – her index finger guiding a corner,
************the body of it gathered
*****in her dextrous palm – and with

such tenderness wiped the spittle
************pooling
*****at her daughter’s mouth.  The faint

warm smell of lipstick – remember? – freighted
************with love,
*****and with that distillate left by fear

when fear’s been long outdone by fearful
************fact.
*****The mother would give her soul to see

this child lift her head on her own.
************And down
*****the hall in orthotics,

I couldn’t for the longest time understand
************why the boy
*****required a helmet so complexly fitted

and strong – his legs were unused, his arms
************so thin.
*****A treadmill, I thought.  Or a bicycle, maybe, some

bold new stage of therapy anyway, sometimes
************he falls
*****and, safe in his helmet, can bravely

set to work again.  It wasn’t for nothing
************that I was
*****so slow.  Who cannot read those waiting rooms

has so far – exactly so far – been spared.
************It was only
*****while I was driving home,

my daughter in her car seat with her brand-
************new brace,
*****that I thought of the boy’s rhythmic rocking

and knew.  Green light.  Yellow.  The tide
************of pedestrians
*****flush and smooth.  And the boy’s

poor head against the wall – how could I miss it?
************and what
*****does God in his heaven do then? – and the boy’s

poor head in its bright red helmet knocking –
************listen –
*****to be let in.

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