Poetry as Survival

University of Georgia Press
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Intended for general readers and for students and scholars of poetry, Poetry as Survival is a complex and lucid analysis of the powerful role poetry can play in confronting, surviving, and transcending pain and suffering.

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.

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About the author

Gregory Orr is the author of such highly praised poetry collections as Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved and The Caged Owl as well as a memoir, The Blessing, which was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the fifty best nonfiction books of 2002. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2003 he was presented with the Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Orr is a professor of English at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1975 and where he was the founder and first director of its MFA in Writing program.
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Publisher
University of Georgia Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2010
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Pages
242
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ISBN
9780820340111
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Poetry
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This content is DRM protected.
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Gregory Orr s genius is the transformation of trauma into art. Whether writing about his responsibility for a brother s death during a hunting accident, drug addiction, or being jailed during the Civil Rights struggle, lyricism erupts in the midst of desolation and violence. Orr s spare, succinct poems distill myth from the domestic and display a richness of action and visual detail.
This long-awaited collection is soulful work from a remarkable poet, whose poems have been described as "mystical, carnal, reflective, and wry." ("San Francisco Review")
"Love Poem"
A black biplane crashes through the window
of the luncheonette. The pilot climbs down,
removing his leather hood.
He hands me my grandmother s jade ring.
No, it is two robin s eggs and
a telephone number: yours.
from "Gathering the Bones Together"
A father and his four sons
run down a slope toward
a deer they just killed.
the father and two sons carry
rifles. They laugh, jostle,
and chatter together.
A gun goes off
and the youngest brother
falls to the ground.
A boy with a rifle
stands beside him,
screaming
"Orr s is an immaculate style of latent violence and inhibited tenderness, charged with a desperate intensity whose source is often obscure."--"The New York Times Book Review"
Gregory Orr is the author of seven volumes of poetry and three books of criticism. He is the editor at "Virginia Quarterly Review," teaches at the University of Virginia, and lives with his wife and daughters in Charlottesville. In 2002, along with his selected poems "The Caged Owl," he will also publish a memoir and a book about poetry writing: "Three Strange Angels: Trauma and Transformation in Lyric Poetry."
Also Available by Gregory Orr:
"Orpheus & Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence"
"
How can I celebrate love/ now that I know what it does? So begins this booklength lyric sequence which reinhabits and modernizes the story of Orpheus, the mythic master of the lyre (and father of lyric poetry) and Eurydice, his lover who died and whom Orpheus tried to rescue from Hades.

Gregory Orr uses as his touchstone the assertion that myths attempt to narrate a whole human experience, while at the same time serving a purpose which resists explanation. Through poems of passionate and obsessive erotic love, Orr has dramatized the anguished intersection of infinite longings and finite lives and, in the process, explores the very sources of poetry.

When Eurydice saw him
huddled in a thick cloak,
she should have known
he was alive,
the way he shivered
beneath its useless folds.

But what she saw
was the usual: a stranger
confused in a new world.
And when she touched him
on the shoulder,
it was nothing
personal, a kindness
he misunderstood.
To guide someone
through the halls of hell
is not the same as love.

"A reader unfamiliar with Orr’s work may be surprised, at first, by the richness of both action and visual detail that his succinct, spare poems convey. Lyricism can erupt in the midst of desolation."—Boston Globe

When Gregory Orr’s Burning the Empty Nest appear, Publisher’s Weekly praised it as an "auspicious debut for a gifted newcomer…he already demonstrates a superior control of his medium." Kirkus Review celebrated it as "an almost unbearably powerful first book of poetry" and enthusiastically reviewed his second book Gathering the Bones Together, noting that "Orr’s power is the eloquence of understatement." Most recently, his City of Salt was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Gregory Orr teaches at the University of Virginia.
Gregory Orr s genius is the transformation of trauma into art. Whether writing about his responsibility for a brother s death during a hunting accident, drug addiction, or being jailed during the Civil Rights struggle, lyricism erupts in the midst of desolation and violence. Orr s spare, succinct poems distill myth from the domestic and display a richness of action and visual detail.
This long-awaited collection is soulful work from a remarkable poet, whose poems have been described as "mystical, carnal, reflective, and wry." ("San Francisco Review")
"Love Poem"
A black biplane crashes through the window
of the luncheonette. The pilot climbs down,
removing his leather hood.
He hands me my grandmother s jade ring.
No, it is two robin s eggs and
a telephone number: yours.
from "Gathering the Bones Together"
A father and his four sons
run down a slope toward
a deer they just killed.
the father and two sons carry
rifles. They laugh, jostle,
and chatter together.
A gun goes off
and the youngest brother
falls to the ground.
A boy with a rifle
stands beside him,
screaming
"Orr s is an immaculate style of latent violence and inhibited tenderness, charged with a desperate intensity whose source is often obscure."--"The New York Times Book Review"
Gregory Orr is the author of seven volumes of poetry and three books of criticism. He is the editor at "Virginia Quarterly Review," teaches at the University of Virginia, and lives with his wife and daughters in Charlottesville. In 2002, along with his selected poems "The Caged Owl," he will also publish a memoir and a book about poetry writing: "Three Strange Angels: Trauma and Transformation in Lyric Poetry."
Also Available by Gregory Orr:
"Orpheus & Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence"
"
“[A] confident, mystical, expansive project.”—Publishers Weekly

“[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.”

Now
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.

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