Review of Linda Gregg’s Visit
By: Jaci Turner
Linda Gregg’s visit to Butler University on March 26th 2012, in the Writer’s Studio in Jordan Hall was an informative, informal chat with students and staff in a question and answer format. Students, faculty, and guests were encouraged to ask Linda Gregg their questions regarding her work, her writing process, and advice for their own writing. Gregg’s work, which includes eight books of poetry, has been published over the past 30 years. The newest book was published just a year ago on March 1st, 2011, and includes selected poems from throughout her career along with several new poems.
In the Middle Distance, published in 2006, contains over 50 poems of Gregg’s and is representative of her themes of nature and loss. The theme of nature is representative in the poem “Plenty” in a moment in which two sisters reminisce about the flowers that their mother had planted around their children home when they were young. When speaking at Butler University, Gregg talked about writing about images in nature. She gave the advice to take a walk and write about what you see in detail. She gave this advice with a warning though: “The problem with describing things in minute detail is that you lose sight of the thing you’re writing about.” She said that you can tell that it’s good when things become magical and start to resonate and used an example from one of her students, “The mirror with nothing in it.”
The theme of loss is present in one of the last poems in the book, “What’s Left.” It shows a picture of a man who has left home and will now miss the joys of springtime in his hometown. When asked about how to write about emotion, Gregg asserted that, “there are times when you can just say what you want to say or what you are feeling, but you have to be open to emotion in order to make contact.” She said that, “you have a mind to question and a heart to feel,” so you need to use them because there’s no need to be mediocre.
Throughout the whole session, Gregg encouraged the audience to work hard to be ambitious. She used examples in her own experience, writing, as well as larger examples of why we shouldn’t settle for being okay. “There’s great poetry for as far back as we can find it, inspired by things that last, so why make a knock-off of a poem?” she asked. “Why be mediocre?” Gregg urged her listeners to make the most of each day and take in the beauty of what the world has to offer.