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“The river is largely implicit here,” writes Linda Gregerson about her acre of woods. Whether open to view or underground, her river maps communal fate: everything that lives is its direct dependent. The river can also bring infection: it is a branching repository for toxicity. It carries news, much of which is a litany of harm—recklessness, malice, failures of heart, and failures of attention—but the poems in Waterborne somehow extract from adversity a syntax of devotion.
“The past / that has a place for us will know us by / our scattered wake,” Gregerson also writes. The resilient tercets in which these poems are written might themselves be thought of as a scattered wake—the luminous record of movement through various lives. These stirring poems can be considered tools for staging daily rescues from oblivion. Their occasions are diverse—a barn fire, a wounded deer, a child’s determined struggle with a bicycle—but their instinct is always to wrest from the impure world a vernacular of praise.
As Mark Strand has written, “Linda Gregerson’s poetry is among the very best being written.”
Gregerson’s rich aesthetic allows her best poems to resonate metaphysically. After working in tercets for some twenty years, Linda Gregerson makes bold formal experiments in Magnetic North She investigates the elegant shape of a question, taking inspiration from subjects as diverse as the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Nobel Prize in physiology. In one poem, “Bicameral,” she makes breathtaking leaps. “Choose any angle you like…the world is split in two,” she writes. The image moves from a child"s cleft palate to a gunshot wound to a shorn sheep to a modern art exhibit of hanging skeins of fabric: “the body it becomes will ever bind it to the human and a trail of woe.” Amid the torn, tangled record of violence and repair she finds that “the world you have to live in is the world that you have made.”