Welcome to Ask a Poet, where each week we will present (in no particular order) a Q&A with a poet who will be coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival this October 20-23. Through these blogs, you’ll be able to get to know these poets a bit better in preparation for #DPF16!
Now, let’s get to know Linda Gregerson.
What are you reading?
I’ve been reading and rereading the poetry of Ross Gay. It’s a revelation to me: its buoyancy and largeness of spirit, its marvelous range, its extraordinary musicality. I keep hoping some of it will rub off.
What is something you have recently discovered about poetry?
What I discover again and again, and what is always stirring to discover, is how poetry demands, and helps us to imagine, the best of us. If we come to it complacently, as readers or writers, it will call our bluff. If we come to it with inflexible opinions or jaded hearts, it will turn its back on us. If we come to it distractedly, it will either shake us to attention or turn to gibberish. You cannot con a poem.
What is the role of poetry in the twenty first century?
Mindfulness, pure and simple. We see around us the depredations wrought by inattention and insularity, by misplaced blame and misplaced righteousness. Poetry, real poetry, the rigorous attention afforded and exemplified by poetry, is blessed antidote.
Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved. He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.” What great poem are you proud of having written?
William Meredith’s perfect sonnet: “The Illiterate”
How important is accessibility of meaning? Should a reader have to work hard to “solve” the poem?
I fervently believe in the principle of hospitality: a poem should be reader-friendly, should invite the reader in, should offer immediate touchstones of recognition and pleasure. And yet. I don’t like poems that use themselves up on the first reading. I like to be encouraged to “work,” to find pleasure in working, to come back again and again and experience the simultaneous rewards of deepening familiarity and deepening understanding. I like a poem that lasts.
Linda Gregerson was born in Illinois and received a BA from Oberlin College, 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 to 2014 (2015);The Selvage (2012); Magnetic North (2007), a finalist for the National Book Award; Waterborne (2002), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (1996), a finalist for The Poet’s Prize and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and Fire in the Conservatory (1982). Gregerson’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Granta, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Best American Poetry and many other journals and anthologies. Her awards and honors include the Levinson Prize, the Consuelo Ford Award, the Isabel MacCaffrey Award, a Guggenheim 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.
Stay updated on the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival as information becomes available!