Gregerson's understated sophomore volume, The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep, focused on mothers, children and family tragedy; this follow-up broadens her subjects while retaining her distinctive form. Gregerson's trademark three-line, sandwich-shaped stanzas accommodate long and short sentences, awe and baffled suffering, quick changes and sustained visual attention. Here those stanzas illuminate subjects from autism to wilderness to suburban ecology, from biblical cruxes to Norwegian-American genealogy and emergency-room night shifts. Gregerson (who teaches at the University of Michigan) is also a respected Renaissance scholar, and her Shakespearean knowledge informs the moving opening poem, which fans out from a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream to exclaim, "how odd/ to be this and no other and, like all// the others, marked for death?" A cento of Puritan texts asks, "What meaneth,/ Ye/ shall be my Jewells?" while a compact poem set earlier in this century offers "another sorry tale about class in America." The three-part "Passover" reviews recent history with a heavy heart ("If anyone here were in charge, my vote is scrap us/ and start over"), yet the same poem retains humor and scope enough to focus on the recent film Magnolia. There and in the title poem (included in last year's Best American Poetry), water and watersheds stand at once for the course of history and the perils of human indifference. (Apr.)
Forecast:Though her distant models or analogues include Stephen Dunn and the early Jorie Graham, Gregerson has made her subjects her own. Strongly felt, driven by human stories and formally impressive, this volume may well garner both a broad readership and a major award.
Release date: 04/01/2002