By Natalia Welch
“I don’t mind if things are reduced to a simplicity.
But it is important that the reduction does not go too far.”
- “Changed or Cheapened” Linda Gregg
Poetry is often like playing ISPY as a child. The bottom of the page tells you there are 4 thimbles in the picture, but you are convinced there are only 3. Just when you are about to go complain to your mother that the book is lying, magically the thimble appears and you have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. This is relatable in poetry; one typically must look past the numerous distractions to discover the true message. As a poet, Linda Gregg has taken the ISPY page and eliminated the distractions by focusing in on the four circles the thimbles are contained in. Gregg emphasizes that by learning to see and opening yourself to emotion one can discover the importance of small details. This ability is what Gregg highlighted at her recent Q&A session at Butler University on March 29.
During this session it was not about getting to know her writing, but concentrated on getting to know the woman behind the words. Near the beginning of her session she told a story dealing with the “magic of noticing”. One example of this is an exercise she uses regularly with her students. They keep a journal of a couple observations they make each day. These observations do not need to be full sentences and cannot be abstract thoughts, but just an acknowledgment of the small things in the world around them. She urged them to “start realizing and living life” by seeing past the big picture to the small details that make the picture worth looking at.
Every year without fail the student’s perception of reality changed. They began to notice the minute details contained in the world around them. These elements begin to appear in both their writing and daily conversations, Gregg referred to this phenomenon as “sensing the magic of noticing”. These students learned to examine instead of just completing tasks and getting through the day. That was Gregg’s goal and is how she lives her own life.
Once she had expressed the importance of seeing, the next major topic was feeling. As a poet Gregg is very in tune with her emotions and is willing to let them out. She does not conceal her passions in a bottle so society will never witness what she is truly feeling. At one point she said “keep parts the way you are, but be open to emotion”. This idea of openness to emotion was her assignment to the audience.
A way to jumpstart this assignment was to find what inspires us. Gregg spoke of how she connects with nature and stays active through participating in daily walks or going for a swim. These are the times she finds herself and is able to successfully grasp her emotions. Afterward she keeps that energy and uses it to fuel her poems. In an almost poetical manner she articulated “we want a range in our being”. Meaning, we must be able to be release all different kinds of sentiments in our lives to truly understand how to live. Gregg appears to be a teacher of not only words, but spirit.
Listening to Gregg stand in front of the audience and just let her thoughts flow naturally was overwhelmingly powerful. She has mastered the art of expressing oneself through observation and emotions. Whether she was telling us a story, quoting an old friend, or just ranting about the ways we can better learn to express ourselves it left the crowd motionless and intently listening. Linda Gregg has the same voice in person, as she does on paper. Her ability to embrace the simplicity of life and be open to raw emotion is a talent that we have been lucky enough to be exposed to as an audience. She leaves us sitting in awe hoping we can achieve the same ideals in our lives.