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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-ol 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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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-ol 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.

30 review for Poetry as Survival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    In lieu of review, here are links to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR posts made using quotes and / or poems from Orr's book. Interesting stuff (uh, if you're interested in poetry, that is): When Something Strange Pounds on Your Door When the World Slaps You, Poetry... When I Becomes Us, the Poet Wins The Mysterious Equations of Narrative Poetry, Where Less Is More In lieu of review, here are links to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR posts made using quotes and / or poems from Orr's book. Interesting stuff (uh, if you're interested in poetry, that is): When Something Strange Pounds on Your Door When the World Slaps You, Poetry... When I Becomes Us, the Poet Wins The Mysterious Equations of Narrative Poetry, Where Less Is More

  2. 5 out of 5

    AJ Nolan

    Anyone who writes poetry must read this book. Anyone who reads poetry must read this book. Anyone who teaches poetry MUST read this book. Anyone who has suffered trauma must read this book. Anyone who works with people who have suffered trauma, must read this book. This book is not an easy read - it is not a popular market, easy reading memoir. It is a well-researched and well-written analysis of how and why poetry is vital to our survival as humans. How it allows us to cope with the stresses and tra Anyone who writes poetry must read this book. Anyone who reads poetry must read this book. Anyone who teaches poetry MUST read this book. Anyone who has suffered trauma must read this book. Anyone who works with people who have suffered trauma, must read this book. This book is not an easy read - it is not a popular market, easy reading memoir. It is a well-researched and well-written analysis of how and why poetry is vital to our survival as humans. How it allows us to cope with the stresses and traumas of being human - how writing poetry, or reading poetry, can keep us alive when life seems like it is tearing us apart. And all this is done, not just by looking at so many of the great authors, like Keats, Blake, Dickinson, Whitman, Plath, etc., but also through Gregory Orr's own gorgeous and eloquent prose and analysis. He writes: "We must, the personal lyric tells us, become vulnerable to what is out there (or inside us). Not in order to be destroyed or overwhelmed by it, but as part of a strategy for dealing with it and surviving it. Lyric poetry tells us that it is precisely by letting in disorder that we will gain access to poetry's ability to help us survive." (47) "When I write a poem to help myself cope with a serious disturbance, I do so by registering the disorder that first destabilized me and then incorporating it into the poem. The literary result is the poem of survival." (130) "The very hopelessness of the shattered self is its hope, because this devastated self possesses a radical freedom . . . . The self is . . . free to make new connections to the world." (121) "What certain poets of trauma intuit is that their old self cannot survive the suffering it has experienced without succumbing. Thus necessity permits and compels imagination to create a new self, a self strong enough or different enough to move through and beyond the trauma and its aftermath." (121) "Surely, we would be right to say that trauma is, by definition among the fiercest and most destructive forms disorder can take. Trauma, either on an intimate or collective scale, has the power to annihilate the self and shred the web of meanings that supports its existence. And yet the evidence of lyric poetry is equally clear - deep in the recesses of the human spirit, there is some instinct to rebuild the web of meanings with the same quiet determination s we witness in the garden spider as it repairs the threads winds and weather have torn." (132) I could go on and on, but most of the other quotes only work in context of the poems that he is discussing, which is one of the main strengths of this book, that he doesn't deal in abstracts, but rather in well researched specifics, obviously pulling from a deep well of knowledge. If you like to learn, and be challenged by what you read, read this book. If you are looking for fluff, then don't read it. I, for one, loved this book. My favorite non-fiction book so far all year.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aliesha

    You have to love poetry, but if you don't you're unlikely to pick this book up anyhow. The whole thing felt like late night conversations with a friend, at least assuming you're both lit majors. You have to love poetry, but if you don't you're unlikely to pick this book up anyhow. The whole thing felt like late night conversations with a friend, at least assuming you're both lit majors.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Jr.

    Orr's work is refreshingly honest, personal, smart, and human/humanist in an age of irony. Like John Gardner he gets back to the basics of what literature ultimately can do for us as people. Absent are the posturing and one-ups-man-ship so prevalent elsewhere. Orr is as sharp a thinker about poetry as anyone...actually, this work reminds me in part of Christian Wiman's recent essays. Orr's work is refreshingly honest, personal, smart, and human/humanist in an age of irony. Like John Gardner he gets back to the basics of what literature ultimately can do for us as people. Absent are the posturing and one-ups-man-ship so prevalent elsewhere. Orr is as sharp a thinker about poetry as anyone...actually, this work reminds me in part of Christian Wiman's recent essays.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gerry LaFemina

    What a terrific discussion of the lyric impulse and its relationship to the personality and trauma of the poet, exploring the ordering nature of poetic language and looking at work from around the world. Smart, insightful, and engaging, this is one of my favorite books on the notion of lyricism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Click here: [http://www.robertpeake.com/archives/2...] Click here: [http://www.robertpeake.com/archives/2...]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary Sue

    Despite the high rating, I have to admit I was kind of disappointed in this book! The first two hundred pages are magic, full of gorgeous interpretations that speak well of Orr's experience as a poet and professor; I learned tons from him here and he prompted a whole lot of thought about trauma and about the uses of poetry for enabling people to create order out of disorder; to marshal thoughts and feelings and make sense of what's going on in a life. I loved how personal he makes poetry. Grante Despite the high rating, I have to admit I was kind of disappointed in this book! The first two hundred pages are magic, full of gorgeous interpretations that speak well of Orr's experience as a poet and professor; I learned tons from him here and he prompted a whole lot of thought about trauma and about the uses of poetry for enabling people to create order out of disorder; to marshal thoughts and feelings and make sense of what's going on in a life. I loved how personal he makes poetry. Granted, he's talking about the personal lyric, but he shows readers how to invite it in; how to let poems MOVE us and speak to us and out of their authors. His love of poetry is unmistakable on every page (Lord, does he fanboy HARD over Emily Dickinson!) But in the last chapter and the appendices it just kind of fizzles out. He's so eager to create (or at least provide a means of creating) order that he sort of de-fangs all that he'd done with some wishy-washy "just change your perspective and invite wonder through poetry into your life to make things better" moralizing stuff. Rather than "sitting with" the poets, tasting their sorrows and their selves, he makes it about personal feel-good stuff, which to me seems a bit cheapening. He also chooses to exclude religion from his assessments on the basis that finding order and meaning in religion goes against the idea of the personal lyric. Religion is too other-worldly; it can't be experienced with the senses, which is what the personal lyric is about (even in cases of ecstatic release from the body) - thereby lumping all religions together into one rather nebulous blob even though he talks about it as Christianity. In doing this he misses some crucial connections - particularly in overlooking the dynamic and profound repercussions of the Word _becoming flesh and dwelling among us_ on his understanding, and in the interim downplaying the depth of Eliot's anguish even within the Four Quartets and not doing anything at all about Dante. Some other arguments here and there betray his limited understanding of religion - which is fine, except for he was the one who went there, not me. Admittedly, I'm not going to be satisfied with a philosophy of poetry that doesn't positively link to Scripture and Christianity. That said, again - he was the one that went there, and he didn't have to. I would have given it five stars if he skipped the appendices and had a concluding chapter that wasn't so cheesy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma Galloway Stephens

    Essential reading did serious poets

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sigrun Hodne

    Somehow something has gone wrong with poetry in our culture. We have lost touch with its purpose and value, and in doing so, we have lost contact with essential aspects of our own emotional and spiritual lives. https://omstreifer.com/tag/gregory-orr/ Somehow something has gone wrong with poetry in our culture. We have lost touch with its purpose and value, and in doing so, we have lost contact with essential aspects of our own emotional and spiritual lives. https://omstreifer.com/tag/gregory-orr/

  10. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This book considers the personal lyric in its attempt to make order out of disorder and counts its process as the antithesis of the sacred, transcendent realm above humanity (sharp lines are drawn dividing Christianity in particular and metaphysical ideals with the personal lyric.) The book is valuable for those not attune to religion or philosophy as ordering processes, and especially for its discussion of poetry from poets such as Wordsworth, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Wilfred Owen, Plath, Kun This book considers the personal lyric in its attempt to make order out of disorder and counts its process as the antithesis of the sacred, transcendent realm above humanity (sharp lines are drawn dividing Christianity in particular and metaphysical ideals with the personal lyric.) The book is valuable for those not attune to religion or philosophy as ordering processes, and especially for its discussion of poetry from poets such as Wordsworth, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Wilfred Owen, Plath, Kunitz and Roethke, and others, like Eliot who embraced religious consolation later in life, dividing himself from “the secular humanism that animates the personal lyric” (p. 205). When Orr mentions the “sacred lyric” he undoubtedly points beyond it to Christianity itself. According to Orr, “the key distinction between the sacred and secular lyric is this: the sacred imagines order as “up there” (in the sky, in heaven, above the earth) or “over there” (beyond the door of death).” Elsewhere Orr writes “the personal lyric says to the self in its suffering: ‘I will not abandon you. Nor will I ask you to abandon yourself and the felt truth and particulars of your experience’ (p. 29.) This should, to anyone who has ever studied the Bible, bring to mind the words of Jesus: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross’ (Matthew 16:24). Yet Orr does not take into consideration that Jesus did not ask anyone, ever, to abandon one’s self during suffering, but rather to carry their cross, which necessarily includes suffering, and, for some, to endure their thorns in the flesh, because it is through suffering humanity learns humility, among other things. Nor does Orr consider that Jesus himself entered the world of suffering human beings and did not stay “up there in the sky.” In other words, the divine says 'look up, yes, but it also says, look around. It says look at each other and love each other deeply while you are in the world. This isn’t all there is, but while you are here, look. Feel.'

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Seifert

    In this prose work Orr reflects on some heavy themes that have evolved ("invented") from a rich history of the personal lyric "as a means of helping individuals survive the existential crises represented by extremities of subjectivity and also by such outer circumstances as poverty, suffering, pain, illness, violence, or loss of a loved one." In the second section of the book, "Trauma and Transformation" he writes on this theme via the lyrical works a great poets as Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, an In this prose work Orr reflects on some heavy themes that have evolved ("invented") from a rich history of the personal lyric "as a means of helping individuals survive the existential crises represented by extremities of subjectivity and also by such outer circumstances as poverty, suffering, pain, illness, violence, or loss of a loved one." In the second section of the book, "Trauma and Transformation" he writes on this theme via the lyrical works a great poets as Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, and Wilfred Owen. Orr offers discerning insight into the human need of survival via a long tradition of translating our crisis into language and giving it symbolic expression as an unfolding drama of self and the forces that assail it. Hence . . . I emboldened with strength, lyrically name, order powers, shape imagination, bring to bear the disordering of my existence

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bret Legg

    This is not a light, casual read. But the premise of the book is not only enlightening, it's revelatory. The author points out that we all try to mine logical order from the illogical disorder we experience. It's not only our attempt to make sense of things, it's connected to our quest for survival. The author connects this to the art and effort of poetry, but it has application for anything and anyone that attempts to grasp and find meaning out of disorder and trauma. As a counselor of those wh This is not a light, casual read. But the premise of the book is not only enlightening, it's revelatory. The author points out that we all try to mine logical order from the illogical disorder we experience. It's not only our attempt to make sense of things, it's connected to our quest for survival. The author connects this to the art and effort of poetry, but it has application for anything and anyone that attempts to grasp and find meaning out of disorder and trauma. As a counselor of those who have experienced trauma at an early stage of life, I found much in this book that is transferable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m very glad I read it. This was a beautiful little book about poets, poetry, life, trauma, war, imagination and more. In a smallish book the author takes us on journeys with Emily Dickenson, Stanley Kunitz, Wilfred Owen, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, and more. It’s a thoughtful, interesting collection that helps me reflect on my own life and my own attention to what is happening around me. I’m very glad I read this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Benelli

    I read this book over the course of about one year. I would read a chapter at a time. It's really thoughtful and instructive about the role of lyric poetry as a kind of self-therapy, cathartic exercise or quite literally a means for survival after tragedy. I thought it would have his poetry which it does not but it has many wonderful poems and analysis. I read this book over the course of about one year. I would read a chapter at a time. It's really thoughtful and instructive about the role of lyric poetry as a kind of self-therapy, cathartic exercise or quite literally a means for survival after tragedy. I thought it would have his poetry which it does not but it has many wonderful poems and analysis.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Fredrickson

    This was a difficult book to read. Individual sections of it seemed to resonate and make sense, but the book as a collection of chapters did not seem to flow together. The integration of the chapters appears to be oriented around the nature or existence of suffering, seen through the individual lenses of a wide variety of poets.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Libby Shockman

    Gorgeous. A must read for anyone who is intimated or uninterested in poetry. Extremely relevant to our cultural traumas in the past few years as well. Poignant, comforting book for any troubled/traumatized soul. 🖤

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Beautiful discussion of lyric poems and poetry as a response to trauma.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan Schefflein

    Excellent look at poetry as response to trauma. Could have been better edited. Some very worthwhile thoughts/ideas.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    A brief but sturdy survey of the redeeming power of poetry.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    I think you have to read this as a self-help book rather than an academic study. (Dickinson’s trauma is her subjectivity? What lol.) Still I would 100% smoke peyote with Greg Orr.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A beautiful treatise on the healing powers of poetry. Also includes several interesting bios on well known poets.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Evocatively written book on the intersection and enmeshment of psychology and poetry.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Olga Hebert

    This is a book that is meant to be read and re-read over time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    His workshop in Florida basically came right out of this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ellie

    Wonderful, insightful, instructional book. Adding it to my list of favorite books and will be one I will definitely read again. A superior work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liza

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mikey Walsh

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

  29. 5 out of 5

    MLG

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tina

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