Gregory W. Randall

If you “google” the phrase “Welcome to the underground,” you’ll arrive at the often shadowy doorways of music, video games and even a documentary about a notorious underground fight club in New York City. But there is a different application in the world of poetry publication, too often a world of who-teaches-where and who-knows-who. Many of the poets who come up in these spheres deserve the accolades they receive; I don’t want to steal their thunder. But what of the unconnected poets writing in the solitude of their homes after a grueling day of cleaning hotel rooms or scanning luggage at an airport or, in the case of Gregory W. Randall, working with the strict language of numbers? And what of their poems streaming like Niagara Falls into the overstuffed inboxes of short-staffed publishers? “Welcome to the underground” can be applied to those poets who write stunning work that may reach only the eyes of a very small minority. Gregory W. Randall, welcome to the underground.

The author of four chapbooks, Randall won the Fifth Annual Camber Press Chapbook Award judged by the wonderful poet and writer Mark Doty for Double Happiness. But before the book went to print, a book that would definitely have brought him notice, the publisher disappeared. Such is the world of small independent presses. Such is the world of a good poet kicked back to the underground. Randall ended up publishing the “unified, dreamy, absorbing collection” (Doty) with Conflux Press in 2016.

In 2017, Randall published his first full-length collection, A Cartography of Selves, also with Conflux Press, a press that does a gorgeous job producing books but does no PR. I was thrilled by this book and wrote “Randall is not only a master at mining the depths of human experience, but an expert craftsman building strong poems braced by the sounds, rhythms, silences and echoes that mirror our lives and the world around us.” The poet Susan Terris wrote “…this book is a lyrical examination of time — its ephemerality, how it moves inexorably forward, concluding ‘there is no eternity — everything’s made and / remade, set loose and spinning…'”

In 2022, Fantasia for the Unstruck Hour also came out from Conflux. We get a sense of the book’s atmosphere immediately upon opening it with two quotes, the first by John Keats used in the dedication to Randall’s wife, Toni Wilkes (“O that a week could be an age…”) and the second by James Wright as an epigraph for the collection (“I feel the seasons changing beneath me, / under the floor”). Indeed, the book is filled with references to Randall’s inspirations: the title poem refers to Piero della Francesca’s fresco, The Battle Between Heraclius and Chosroes; other poems refer to work by Czeslaw Milosz, Ingrid D. Rowland, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Kitao Shigemasa and more. There is love and longing and a full face forward to the inevitable changes that come with life, all the while deeply exploring the shifting colors and music and imagination of messaging through poetry that keeps the genre free. Here is just the opening of his moving poem “Boxing Day:”

The day my father died a grey fox
slunk into my yard
and dragged from beneath the rock rose’s skeletal switches
a half-chewed persimmon. His fur

was the color of cigarette ash — a long
crinkled strand
before it’s flicked free. I watched his narrow snout
rip peels of molten flesh
from that pulsating sun, watched him

slowly consume the last of its fire
in a yard scarred with frost.

Here is a microcosm of Randall’s mastery of telling two stories at once, the story of the fox and the story of the dying father who, at one time at least, was a smoker. We see his dying skin through the “half-chewed persimmon.” We are there in the yard and there in the hospital room all at once and neither space is wasted, but it is in neither the yard nor the room where the poem leaves us. Instead, we are left in another state of longing:

It was cold and dark when the call comes. The stars
in their fixed winter clarity
are unwavering. And between the blinds
shines one bright badge of light
I know to be a planet
but for this one night would like to believe is a star.

In “Fantasia as a Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire,” the speaker faces the shared aging of himself and his partner:

Everything around us
has become an utterance of change — brittle leaves
curled into final gestures
where spotted towhees back for winter
scratch, their black wings
becoming coves at dusk mounded with foam. And birches

where purple finches, their throats red as the flesh of pomegranates,
shake out of slack limbs
the dust of catkins
before staggering wave-like through sky
in patterns of random electrons.

A snipping from one of my favorite quotes by Percy Bysshe Shelley is “Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change…It transmutes all that it touches…it strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty, which is the spirit of its forms.” This is a quote that came to mind over and over again as I read Fantasia for the Unstruck Hour.

To order any of Gregory W. Randall’s books, you may contact him directly at

Published by Katherine Hastings

Katherine Hastings is the author of three collections from Spuyten Duyvil Press (NYC): Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (2016); Nighthawks (2014); and Cloud Fire (2012), as well as several chapbooks. Poet laureate emerita of Sonoma County, CA, Hastings edited Know Me Here — An Anthology of Poetry by Women; Digging Our Poetic Roots — Poems from Sonoma County; and What Redwoods Know — Poems from California State Parks, published as a benefit for the California State Parks Foundation when 70 parks were faced with permanent closure. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Book of Forms — A Handbook of Poetics (University Press of New England, Lewis Putnam Turco, editor); Verde Que Te Quiero Verde — Poems After Federico Garcia Lorca (Open Country Press, Natalie Peeterse, Editor); Changing Harm to Harmony — Bullies & Bystanders Project (Marin Poetry Center, Joseph Zaccardi, editor); Beatitude — Golden Anniversary (Latif Harris and Neeli Cherkovski, editors), among others. She hosted WordTemple on NPR affiliate KRCB FM from 2017 — 2017 and founded the WordTemple Poetry Series in Sonoma County (2006 — 2017) where she also taught craft-focused poetry workshops. Following the October 2017 wildfires, Hastings moved with her partner to Western New York in 2018. "Shakespeare & Stein Walk in to Bar is animated by the two most rewarding and replenishing of poetic forces: dexterous formal diversity and a fierce, unflinching searching..." — Malachi Black "Rooted in what Hastings calls the "momentary forever," these marvelous poems, so rich with detail and so full of duende, explore the paradoxes of transience. Yes, the poet reminds us: 'The alarm is set and ticking' for each least thing in the living world..." — Susan Kelly-DeWitt On Cloud Fire: "'s your veiled history." — Lawrence Ferlinghetti "For Katherine Hastings, 'The mirror is a lake of longing'. Her poems are told us by 'a woman with a moon in her chest;' their surprising images embrace close observation, deeply dramatized love and losses, and have the power of crossing boundaries of spirit to reveal truths otherwise unseen." — Daniel Hoffman, US Poet Laureate, 1973 — 1974

5 thoughts on “Gregory W. Randall

  1. Hello Katherine,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog about Gregory Randall. I just attempted to contact him about ordering his books via the email you included for him in your blog, but got a notice that the email could not be found. Do you have any other way to contact him?

    Best, Chera Van Burg (friend of Charlie Cote)



  2. Katherine, thank you for highlighting Greg’s poetry. He truly is a wonderful poet. I recently read his “Fantasia” poems and love the riches there.


  3. Thanks, Katherine. I’m going to order a couple of his books. I remember meeting him at the workshop you held in Sebastopol some years ago. He seemed like a nice and interesting guy, and I was curious to see more of his work. Now I have the chance. Hope all is well with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: