Gregory Orr draws from a generous array of sources. He weaves discussions of work by Keats, Dickinson, and Whitman with quotes from three-thousand-year-old Egyptian poems, Inuit songs, and Japanese love poems to show that writing personal lyric has helped poets throughout history to process emotional and experiential turmoil, from individual stress to collective grief. More specifically, he considers how the acts of writing, reading, and listening to lyric bring ordering powers to the chaos that surrounds us. Moving into more contemporary work, Orr looks at the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Stanley Kunitz, and Theodore Roethke, poets who relied on their own work to get through painful psychological experiences.
As a poet who has experienced considerable trauma--especially as a child--Orr refers to the damaging experiences of his past and to the role poetry played in his ability to recover and survive. His personal narrative makes all the more poignant and vivid Orr's claims for lyric poetry's power as a tool for healing. Poetry as Survival is a memorable and inspiring introduction to lyric poetry's capacity to help us find safety and comfort in a threatening world.
“[D]azzling and timeless . . . focus is so unwaveringly aimed toward the transcendent—not God, but the beloved—that we seem to slip into a less cluttered time.”—The Virginia Quarterly Review, “Editor’s Choice”
"Mary Oliver calls him '...a Walt Whitman without an inch of Whitman's bunting or oratory.' In these pages, he is more nearly a modern-day Rumi. This is not primarily a poetry of image, but of ideas, perfectly distilled. Orr brings together the monumental themes of love and loss in small, spare, and exquisite koan-like poems."—ForeWord
"...magnetic poems that open the world of lyrical verse to the larger questions of what is true and timeless."
—The Bloomsbury Review
Gregory Orr continues his acclaimed project on the “beloved” with a lyrical sequence about the joys and hungers of being fully engaged in life. Through concise, perfectly formed poems, he wakes us to the ecstatic possibilities of recognizing and risking love. Mary Oliver has called this project “gorgeous,” and said that he "speaks of the events that have no larger or more important rival in our lives—of our love and our loving."
If to say it once
And once only, then still
To say: Yes.
And say it complete,
Say it as if the word
Filled the whole moment
With its absolute saying.
Later for “but,”
Later for “if.”
Only the single syllable
That is the beloved.
That is the world.
Gregory Orr is the author of ten books of poetry. He teaches at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville.