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Linda Gregg’s In the Middle Distance

Linda Gregg’s In the Middle Distance is a volume of poetry that plays on the examination of space and loneliness through the use of metaphoric images. Her verse is seemingly simple, with fairly regular meter and vocabulary, but the depth of meaning in her pairing of visuals and emotions is rewarding and complex. I found myself drawn to the honesty, with which she portrays her subjects and her ability to pair abstract feelings with tangible things or realistic experiences.

One poem, I particualry admire and continue to mentally revisit is titled, “Purity.” She writes,

I’m walking on farm road 2810 again,

alone as always. Unless you want count

the Border Patrol. Or the police cars

that go by with their strange maneuvers

in front of me and pull off into

the mowed grass on the side. Then turn

and come back. Stalling and facing me.

Waiting until a car approaches

from far away. It passes and the police

follow it toward town. Leaving me

with animals, insects and birds.

And the silence. I walk toward the sun

which is always going down.”

I was going to try to select a few lines from the poem, but I couldn’t help but feel that every line is essential and contributes to the meaning. Gregg’s words and syntax are deliberate. The short sentences work to maintain the simplicity of the poem, which I think reinforces the message and allows the reader to focus singularly on the visuals. Gregg elevates the ordinary, highlighting the detail of the mowed grass and the exact farm road. She does not derail the importance of her last few lines with fancy imagery driven language about what the appearance of the sun, and she doesn’t need to. 

In another poem titled “Being,” Gregg describes a woman getting water from a well, hanging clothes, and going about her daily routine. In the final lines of the poem Gregg writes,

“No one is there. She may not believe

in anything. Not know

what she is doing. Every morning

she waters the geranium plant.

And the leaves smell like lemons.”

Again, she uses regular line length and enjambed short sentences. I find this poem particularly interesting because of the use of the third person. The ambiguity of the character, referred to only as “she” is captivating. The woman described (because Gregg’s description is minimalist) has a universality to her. Also, because the details Gregg includes are so selective, I found myself reading this poem many times trying to figure out the importance of things like the leaves smelling like lemons.

I highly recommend In the Middle Distance and will most likely be checking into Gregg’s other work.