A Walk Down Memory Lane: A Review of Linda Gregg’s In the Middle Distance
By Lucy Vernasco
Linda Gregg’s In the Middle Distance is best read while resting in a quiet area of nature. Out loud, her words as stable and calm. The poetry is simple, yet her images are deep. Gregg’s plain poetry questions love, loss, and loneliness, often shifting through her memories. “Each evening I walk for an hour paying attention to real things,” (Gregg 57) Gregg writes, and as readers we feel as if we are also taking part in her meditation. Her poetry recounts her observations, what she sees, for example, “There is ripe fruit on the ground,” (20). She plainly states and adds metaphorical depth when she writes, “Hawks are flying slowly high above the barren ground where love used to be. The heavy salmon are dying as they struggle with the last of their strength in the shallows to get home” (4).
Much of In the Middle Distance focuses on her memories. Her poem, “Getting Value” is about a visit by an elderly friend. When he arrives, she is aroused with “memories of what he used to be,” (11). Similarly, In “Plenty”, Gregg vividly recaptures a conversation with her sister about flowers their mother used to plant around their house. The language blooms and we are filled with images of blossoms of fresh “hyacinth, Chinese wisteria, roses, lilac, mock-orange,” (12). Her memories fill the pages and take the reader to desolate border towns and fertile Greek terrain. She describes “the beauty of things in the middle distance,” (17).
Themes of love and romance thread their way through her poems as she recalls, “At night I watch the apartments whose windows are still lit after midnight. I fell in love. I believed people,” (5). She is melancholic about the subject, as if she has given up on love, but is remembering its sweet sadness and pleasure. “It is possible to be with someone who is gone,” (27) she writes.
Readers will find comfort in Gregg’s accounts of love and loss. They will also begin taking walks purely for observation and may start watching apartment windows to find truth in “love and its dangers” (3). Remember to keep eyes open during walks. “Seeing is way, way older than writing language,” Gregg said at a recent Q and A session at Butler University. “It means we’re living in our bodies.”