Linda Gregg Essay - Critical Essays


Linda Gregg’s career as a poet began slowly. After marrying Gilbert in 1962, she accompanied him to Greece, where her travels provided inspiration for her later works. Those travels continued after Gregg divorced Gilbert, and she developed a writing style that was emotional in tone and still maintained a distance from her subject. Her early works focused on the months in Greece as she watched her marriage unwind.

Too Bright to See

In 1981, she published Too Bright to See, a poetry collection composed a decade after her divorce. Recognizing that Gilbert and their brief marriage was her inspiration, Gregg dedicated Too Bright to See to her former husband, noting that “it was like being alive twice.”

In Too Bright to See, Gregg adopted a persona, Alma, to describe the disintegration of her marriage. Gregg used Alma to maintain a distance from her work while offering the pure emotions experienced by any wife who knows her husband is with another woman. For example, in “Alma Watching Her Husband,” Gregg portrays her hurt and anger while offering the reader an insight into her struggles composing the poem: “Halfway through the scene I could not decide/ whether Alma should react or go on standing there/ by the window of her dark room.” One can almost see the poet wandering around her room in Greece, waiting for her husband to return, then struggling to set the scene, to put her emotions into words: “Maybe Alma should lie on the floor with her face showing/ Or smash tulips, kneel crying alongside,/ then quickly sweep them up. But I wanted something/ more tenuous.”

Gregg’s distance from the scene is obvious and deliberate in this poem; she describes her actions as if she were creating a fictional work. The description of a distressed, betrayed woman rings true, with the angry and disillusioned Alma seeking some release for her anger. However, the emotional distance from the subject, from Alma’s true feelings, may leave the reader feeling that the poem lacks something. Gregg’s poetry has come under criticism for presenting empty emotion rather than using her experiences as a catalyst. Later in the poem, she again examines her actions from a distance:

I wrote it all down the kind of daylight at midnight in Denmark and the kind at four in the morning.

Gregg creates a picture of confusion, daylight at night, her mind aflame as she searches for answers even as her husband falls for another woman. With her marriage collapsing, Alma is lost, unable to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. Gregg’s distance throughout her Alma scenes eases into acceptance of the inevitable. In real life, Gregg has maintained a working relationship with Gilbert, and the former couple have made joint appearances to celebrate their poetry.

In “No More Marriages,” Gregg’s anger at her failed marriage spills onto the page. There is more than a hint of cynicism spurred by an overly romantic view of marriage. The conversational style contrasts to the third-person narrative she used to describe the breakup of her marriage. It is as if Gregg is speaking to herself, vowing not to repeat her mistake while rationalizing her decision, defending it against an unknown questioner: “Well there ain’t going to be no more marriages./ And no goddam honeymoons....

(The entire section is 1437 words.)