Legler, Gretchen 1960–

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Legler, Gretchen 1960–


Born November 25, 1960, in Salt Lake City, UT; daughter of John M. (a professor of biology) and Avis J. (an artist and homemaker) Legler; married Craig Borck (a photographer), 1988 (divorced, 1992); companion of Ruth Hill (a geologist). Ethnicity: "White." Education: Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, B.A.; University of Minnesota, M.A., 1991, Ph.D., 1994. Politics: Democratic/liberal, feminist. Religion: Earth spirituality. Hobbies and other interests: Hunting, fishing, feminist and lesbian/gay issues, women's art, gardening.


Office—University of Maine, 270 Main St., Farmington, ME 04938. E-mail—[email protected].


Freelance writer, 1980—. Worked as journalist at Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, ND, and St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN; Associated Press, Minneapolis, MN, member of staff, 1984-87. University of Alaska at Anchorage, assistant professor with tenure, creative writing, literary arts, and women's studies, 1994-2000; University of Maine—Farmington, full professor with tenure, 2000—; Southern New Hampshire University, faculty member, 2006—.


Modern Language Association, Western American Literature Association, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, National Women's Studies Association.


Pushcart Prize, 1992-93, for "Border Water"; Pushcart Prize, 1998, for "Gooseberry Marsh"; National Science Foundation Artists & Writers Program fellowship to Antartica, 1997-98.


All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman's Notebook (memoir), Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1995.

On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life in McMurdo Station, Antarctica (memoir), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals including Georgia Review, Indiana Review, Orion, and Women's Review of Books.


Pushcart Prize winner Gretchen Legler's autobiographical All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman's Notebook was published in 1995. The book is a journal-style memoir that describes Legler's love of hunting and fishing as well as her journey toward self-discovery in her personal relationships. Legler examines her difficult relationship with her father, her sister's suicide, and the breakup of her marriage. "It is not until nearly halfway through" All the Powerful Invisible Things, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, that the reader finds out about "Legler's looming secret: her lesbianism." After this revelation and mention of the divorce that follows, Legler goes on to discuss her relationships with women.

Legler also examines the seeming contradiction between her love and respect for wildlife and the fact that she kills animals through hunting and fishing. She observes that she eats her prey and tells her readers that the dismembered chickens found in supermarkets seem more unnatural to her than the natural relationship she has with her food. Additionally, she gardens and collects wild plants, as well as harvesting meat through sporting methods. Legler also discusses her feelings about finding her place in male-dominated outdoor pastimes.

Several reviews of All the Powerful Invisible Things were favorable. Kathy Ruffle in Library Journal praised Legler's "spare yet vivid style," which she described as "heavy on sensuous descriptions of sights, sounds, and smells." Janet St. John in Booklist lauded its "sincerity and unabashed honesty," while a Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that "what this volume evokes is beyond sympathy; the reader aches for Legler's pain."

Legler told CA: "What I was doing in this first collection of essays was bridging the gap between interior and exterior landscapes. The essays try to make sense of the outside world and my inner emotional life. I was able to be so ‘brave’ in this first collection, thanks to many writing mentors, especially my teacher at the University of Minnesota, Madelon Sprengnether, whose small prose collection Rivers, Stories, Houses, Dreams (New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, MN) inspired me to take risks. If there are two things I try to remember when I write and two things I tell my students to remember when they write, they are: pay attention to detail—to the sensual world around you—and be honest—emotionally and intellectually."

In 1997, Legler received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to spend five months in Antarctica and document her experience living there. Her memoir On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life in McMurdo Station, Antarctica chronicles not only the physical wonders of the coldest and harshest continent, but also Legler's growing romance with Ruth Hill, an electrician at the station. While the book received several admiring reviews, a few critics found it disappointing. Kelly Zavala, writing in Bookslut, felt that Legler did not succeed in fulfilling the book's promise: to describe the awesome beauty of Antarctica and to illuminate the motives that sent her there. For Zavala, On the Ice "reads like a first draft: fit and interesting, but not necessarily complete." Bookreporter contributor Curtis Edmonds observed that the memoir could have been an interesting report on the life and work of scientists in Antarctica, "but love got in the way." In Edmonds's views, this circumstance clouds Legler's observations, resulting in writing that is "transcendental and … vague." Though the critic felt that the book provides satisfactory glimpses of the culture of the continent and how residents cope with extreme conditions, he concluded that it does not fully explain what draws people there and why their work matters.

Booklist reviewer Colleen Mondor, however, praised Legler's detailed observations and poetic style, which "truly makes her book sing." Lisa N. Johnston, in a Library Journal review, found Legler's descriptions "vivid and even sensuous." For Lambda Book Report contributor Lucy Jane Bledsoe, On the Ice presents a "beautiful and nuanced picture" of Antarctica created through Legler's meticulous layering of historical, geographical, and biological information with more personal observations. Rebecca A. Clay, writing in Wilson Quarterly, described the book as a "series of lyrical portraits of people and places, whose standalone quality betrays their original role as essays or ‘prose poems’ in literary journals." Noting that the memoir provides a context for Legler's explorations of some complex emotional baggage, including her sister's suicide and her difficult relationships with her family, the critic concluded that On the Ice is a "fascinating look not only at Antarctica but at a woman coming back to life."



Legler, Gretchen, All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman's Notebook, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1995.


Advocate, December 6, 2005, "Ice Queen: Out Author Gretchen Legler Talks about Her Warm Memoir of the Coldest Place in the World," p. 77.

Booklist, November 15, 1995, Janet St. John, review of All the Powerful Invisible Things, p. 530; November 1, 2005, Colleen Mondor, review of On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, p. 14.

California Bookwatch, May, 2006, review of On the Ice.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1995, review of All the Powerful Invisible Things, p. 1330.

Lambda Book Report, spring, 2006, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, review of On the Ice, p. 21.

Library Journal, November 15, 1995, Kathy Ruffle, review of All the Powerful Invisible Things, p. 81; November 1, 2005, Lisa N. Johnston, review of On the Ice, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2005, review of On the Ice, p. 65.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2006, Rebecca A. Clay, review of On the Ice, p. 104.


Bookreporter, http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews2/ (November 6, 2007), Curtis Edmonds, review of On the Ice.

Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November 6, 2007), Kelly Zavala, review of On the Ice.

University of Maine—Farmington Web site, http://humanities.umf.maine.edu/faculty/ (November 6, 2007), Gretchen Legler faculty profile.

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