Completely Subjective: Linda Gregg’s “Beauty”

Linda Gregg’s “Beauty” was published in the March 25th, 2002 issue of the New Yorker.  However, I came across this poem in the 2003 edition of Best American Poetry. Gregg’s poem stands stark on the page as it is centered and short,and I found that the freedom and pluck of both its presence and physical form translated into the meaning I derived from it as well. If I were to assign a color that embodies the Gregg’s poem, I’d choose a leafy lettuce green. This is because “Beauty”, to me, is about the green quality of beauty, the freshness of it, and how easily it can be tainted.

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“Beauty” reads in staccato. I read it like a series of one word text messages with periods at the end. Even though the sentences begin to elongate towards the end of the poem, a sense of tension still lingers. This is in part achieved by the structure of the poem; it is in verse form and the enjambment is sporadic, as if the speaker was in a passionate speech and had to take a quick gasp of air before continuing his thought.

 I felt that I was listening to someone say something that’s been on her mind.  As I mentioned before, the poem’s syntax is short, tense, and simple, yet well thought out.  The connections the speaker makes from Brigitte Bardot to her own life fit perfectly, demonstrating that this thought isn’t just a burst of passion spurred on by seeing Brigitte Bardot on Entertainment Tonight. It is coherent, thoughtful passion that retains a sense of conversation as the poem itself begins sounding like I’ve entered in the middle of a thought – “There she was on Entertainment Tonight”. 

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What I found to be interesting is the paradox created by Gregg between the green freedom of wild beauty, and the ferocity of untamed beauty.  At the start of the poem, the speaker describes Brigitte Bardot running through the forest, and then on the patio looking older or “sun damaged”.  Bardot running through the forest, her “hair still long”, with a dog, is a much nicer image than her on a porch looking old. What this tells me (with the help of the next line, “The violation of beauty never happens just once”), is that Bardot’s beauty is violated when she is contained on a screen, on a man made porch versus when she is beautiful running through a forest and meadow, the green in other words.  Towards the end of the poem, the green is painted a darker hue, going from a lettuce green to a moss green as the dog mentioned at the beginning comes back into play. The speaker describes how when her father’s “beloved” dog killed a sheep, he shot it because once it experienced that freedom, it would never be tamable again.  Bardot, described as running with a dog, can then be related to this story or metaphor; that once she, the beloved of pop culture, experienced freedom (she actually went on to be an animal rights activist) she was untamed and no longer bound to the “sheep”, or maybe, society.

Personally, I place that I feel free is Waveny Park in New Canaan.  I go at least once a weekend to sit and sometimes run or bike. The park is a place where I come to think, and by walking the green paths and standing, overexposed on the plain, I’ve often experienced this intense feeling of something impossible for me to try and explain, but it makes my heart ache. I went to Waveny this past weekend and walked the paths and saw how some of the leaves had begun to change as if they’d been dipped in paint. As the weather gets crisper I get moody because soon I won’t want to be outside in the cold and I’m the kind of person who needs to go outside.  And while I had to look up the reference to Brigitte Bardot, and I’m not in the public eye so I don’t know what it could be like, I do know that I too find freedom in nature, or “the green”.

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“Beauty” for me describes the invigoration of freedom and the beauty that comes with it, as well as the dangers that true beauty brings as it distances a person from society. Gregg stays true to her common themes of desire and longing as she writes about the longing we all feel, to be as free and beautiful as an animal. 

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