Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Linda Gregg’s observation of the two horses in “The Weight,” one of two poems she read at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival, is reverent, and the poem’s tone is almost prayerful. It is as if, for Gregg, attention to the sensual is spiritual. Her reading leaves no doubt that the horses love each other, and that Gregg loves them.
Yet Gregg avoids the word and the connotations it carries. In his equally reverent “A Blessing,” James Wright states directly of the two horses in his poem: “they love each other.” But Gregg knows she cannot name what is passing between the horses, or what passes between any intimate sentient beings. She is willing to remain in a state of wonder. Gregg is one of our rare contemporary poets who will write about wonder without irony. This is not to suggest she lacks a sense of humor, about herself or our human foibles.
In her introduction to “Alone with the Goddess,” Gregg tells the audience that she admires the families in Java that include rituals from three or more faiths in their burial ceremonies. Despite its title, the speaker in this poem is clearly not alone. Her offering ritual to the goddess is interrupted by the judgmental comment of a present observer, and young men on horseback are racing up and down the beach. Gregg’s description of the horses in this poem is also admiring and attentive, even as she notices that they wear blinders, and the young men that ride them do not look either left or right.
We don’t know why the speaker needs to protect the man she loves with a ritual from another culture, or why she is so quick to refute that her offering has been rejected. It could be that she, like the young men on horseback, is just “pretending to be brave.” Or perhaps, like the Javanese, she knows we need to seek out as many avenues as we can into life’s mysteries.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Linda Hogan, Tony Hoagland, Taslima Nasreen and others.
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