Thursday, January 22, 2009

OPEN LETTERS. Carolyn Gregory.

( Carolyn Gregory)

OPEN LETTERS. Carolyn Gregory. (Windmill Editions. $12

Carolyn Gregory is the consummate Boston poet. She has been plying her trade for years, publishing her poems, participating in workshops, readings, and is a much-admired figure in the area poetry scene. So it is good to see her first collection of poetry “Open Letters” appear after all these years. It is a testament to her craftsmanship, her discerning eye, her masterful use of imagery, etc… A lot of her work is set in Boston (she lives in the Jamaica Plain section of the city), but Gregory is not purely an urban poet. She has a well-oiled acumen for writing about nature, be it in a pastoral setting, or sprouting from the cracks in the metropolitan asphalt.

In this time of recession, perhaps it would be germane to look at her poem “Unemployment Office, circa 1991.” Gregory deftly creates a Twilight Zone limbo in a nondescript room where one awaits his or her fate: `

“If there is a limbo in the universe,
this room must be it.
We cross our hands,
hoping for eligibility.
A name is called, a body lifts
from its inert stupor,
the phones ring like warnings,
When will I tell “my” story?”

Now I have written about buses in Boston, most notably the famed Dudley Bus that goes from the rarefied environs of Harvard Square, Cambridge to the less tony grounds of Roxbury in Boston. In her poem “Riding Home in the Dark” Gregory using her evening bus trip as a striking metaphor for her life’s journey:

“Perhaps I’ve been kidding myself too long.
When I ride the bus home,
I’m just like all the other older women,
Riding past high rise glass
columns that dissolve overhead,
all the women going home on Friday
in the dark.

We hang on to our seats when we’re tired,
Riding home to an empty house.
We don’t hang on to men for deliverance
But prop up our heads to keep going
Past city blocks, eager to strip off
Makeup and scarves so we can relax…”


Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Jan 2009/Somerville, Mass.

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