Linda Gregerson Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Linda Gregerson is a much-published literary critic. Her essays on a wide range of poems have appeared in prestigious literary journals and casebooks, and resonate with her own rich sense of language. She has published two studies. The Reformation of the Subject: Spenser, Milton, and the English Protestant Epic (1995) explored how Renaissance British writers deftly crafted language into the subtle sculpture of poetry against the entrenched religious distrust of language with its obscurities and its pitch to the imagination and the passions. Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry (2001) presents Gregerson’s vision of the contemporary lyric poem with particular emphasis on how the postwar generation (herself among them) moved the lyric poem into unprecedented experimentation by subtly revisiting poetic line, syntax, and meter.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

In bringing together her scholarly interests in the classic expressions of formal poetry with her own verse, Linda Gregerson has produced poetry remarkable for its elegant verbal play, its cool and sculpted form, and its precise and mathematical use of language. Her themes reflect the gravitas appropriate to her interest in classical poetry—love, time, mutability, beauty, and nature. Her individual poems have received numerous awards, most notably the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine (1991), the Consuelo Ford Award from the Poetry Society of America (1992), and Pushcart Prizes (1994, 2003, 2008). The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize and the Poets’ Prize. In 2002, she received the Academy Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2003, Waterborne won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award, an annual prize given by the Claremont Graduate University in California to recognize a working poet in midcareer. Magnetic North was shortlisted for the National Book Award. Gregerson has received numerous grants and fellowships, most notably from the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1982-1984), the National Endowment for the Arts (1985, 1992), the Guggenheim Foundation (2000-2001), and the Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities, Bogliasco, Italy (2009). She has also served on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Baker, David, and Ann Townsend, eds. Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2007. Essays by contemporary poet-scholars (including Gregerson) that define three forms of lyric poetry—the ode, the elegy, and the love poem—and isolate three themes—nature, mortality, and beauty. Accessible arguments geared for a general audience.

Blasing, Mutlu Konuk. Lyric Poetry: The Pain and Pleasure of Words. New Haven, Conn.: Princeton University Press, 2006. Important context for appreciating Gregerson as a lyric poet. Investigates how the lyric poet manipulates language—diction, syntax, rhythm, and sounds—to transform first-person experience into public poetry.

Gregerson, Linda. Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. Invaluable insights into Gregerson’s own sense of the lyric and its modern variations through her careful readings of contemporary poets. Particularly helpful in explicating Gregerson’s complex prosody.

Jacobs, Alan. Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004. A collection of critical essays by a scholar who brings his own Christian perceptive to his readings that include a laudatory reading of Gregerson and her interest in eternity and the persistence of animation in a universe rife with death.

Longenbach, James. The Art of the Poetic Line. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2007. A useful explication for readers unfamiliar with the structural argument of poetry on specifically how lyric poets manipulate form and line construction to create an appropriate effect.