From Raven Chronicles
The Beautiful City of Weeds
Reviewed by Elizabeth Myhr
The Beautiful City of Weeds
by Robert Gregory
Hanging Loose Press,
231 Wyckoff St., Brooklyn, NY. 11217
2005, paper, 118 pages, $15.00
Tranquility of morning, the peace of sidewalk and lawn and neighborhood, of gardens, the high school girl out for a run, a kid in his pajamas on a trike, sun on the leaves, the heat of August and its deep shade too. These are just a few of the subjects in Robert Gregory’s gorgeous and moving book of meditations on the beauty of our homes and streets, our cities. This book is meant as a gift to us: “I’d like to send this city out for the friends and strangers….”
His observations are the observations of a man trained in the sciences as an engineer, thus he gives us complex, highly detailed, and, in the best sense, highly scientific poems, but he is also a musician and his poems are musical as well. To capture his own love of the details of our world, of the musicality of the world and its words, Gregory decided on long, winding lines that turn into long, winding sentences. To read them is to relax into his rhythm and into the subject matter, to slow down, notice, be: “coming out the open door of a tiny record shop / whose owner is dreaming and forgets the time. / Outside the dime store, brownskin men in big loose shirts/and elegant thin shoes stand in the shade together,/ talking languages from home...” (“They Show Themselves (Miami, 1995)”) or “But just ahead on the slippery path,/ white belly pressed against the delicious mud/ a beautiful toad, his tint a brown like/cinnamon,” (“Pointed, Like A Star Drawn by a Careful Child (An August Ode)”).
He feels to me like a writer in that great tradition of scientist/poets that culture has always so consistently produced — despite the (really dull) intellectual wars between the two disciplines that got started during the Romantic period — poet/scientists such as Goethe, the Romantics poets Keats, Byron and Shelley, on into America with William Carlos Williams, our late A.R. Aamons, and many, many others from all over the world. In this tradition Gregory continues with marvelous observation and praise.
Ellizabeth Myhr currently serves as poetry editor for The Raven Chronicles. She is a poet and professional editor. Her poetry has apppeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Stringtown, Knock and other journals. She has received an Artists Trust Gap Grant and serves from time to time as a writer-in-residence at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington. She has an undergraduate degree in literature from The Evergreen State College and lives in Seattle with her son. She is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University.