The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep

Linda Gregerson, Author
Linda Gregerson, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-395-82290-6
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-395-82289-0
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Gregerson's second collection (Fire in the Conservatory, 1982) delivers a one-two punch: what you see is not what you get. Her long poems, most with numbered sections, move airily down the page in uneven, unrhymed triplets. The pace suggests a breeziness of spirit until the weight of the content and the directness of the voice set in. ""The world's a world of trouble, your mother must/ have told you/ that. Poison leaks into the basements// and tedium into the schools."" The reader might quickly tire of these poems burdened by childhood death and disease, crime and violence, and steeped in ""the salt of grief."" But Gregerson never just tells a gruesome story; instead, she finds a starting point from the nightly news or a visit to the dentist to examine fears and philosophies, plotting unpredictable courses. In ""Target,"" she muses on the vulnerability of a newborn being bathed in the sink, the mother, ""sick/ with fear/ for the pulse in the scalp"" and ends by quoting a 22-year-old Serb prisoner who reports to a journalist: ""I am happy/ to kill a child crossing the street with his mother./ There is something so fantastic on the mother's face."" Gregerson's command of technique is reason enough to enter this dark poetical landscape, where the space-filled lines give often startling lift to the material's weight. (Nov.)
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