Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved

Overview

“The heart of Orr’s poetry, now as ever, is the enigmatic image . . . mystical, carnal, reflective, wry.”—San Francisco Review

This book-length sequence of ecstatic, visionary lyrics recalls Rumi in its search for the beloved and its passionate belief in the healing qualities of art and beauty.

Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved is an incantatory celebration of the “Book,” an imaginary and self-gathering anthology of all the ...

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Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved

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Overview

“The heart of Orr’s poetry, now as ever, is the enigmatic image . . . mystical, carnal, reflective, wry.”—San Francisco Review

This book-length sequence of ecstatic, visionary lyrics recalls Rumi in its search for the beloved and its passionate belief in the healing qualities of art and beauty.

Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved is an incantatory celebration of the “Book,” an imaginary and self-gathering anthology of all the lyrics—both poems and songs—ever written. Each poem highlights a distinct aspect of the human condition, and together the poems explore love, loss, restoration, the beauty of the world, the beauty of the beloved, and the mystery of poetry. The purpose and power of the Book is to help us live by reconnecting us to the world and to our emotional lives.

I put the beloved In a wooden coffin.
The fire ate his body;
The flames devoured her.
I put the beloved In a poem or song.
Tucked it between Two pages of the Book.
How bright the flames.
All of me burning,
All of me on fire And still whole.

There is nothing quite like this book—an “active anthology” in the best sense—where individuals find the poems and songs that will sustain them. Or the poems find them.

Gregory Orr is the author of eight books of poetry, four volumes of criticism, and a memoir. He has received numerous awards for his work, most recently the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Orr has taught at the University of Virginia since 1975 and was, for many years, the poetry editor of The Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Orr's first book since The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002) has little in common with the hushed, observant lyric that made his reputation in the 1970s; this eighth collection is, instead, a confident, mystical, expansive project, whose very clear short poems (almost 200 of them) constitute a meditation and ritual for grieving a lost beloved. The first poem invokes the Egyptian god Osiris, whose lover Isis resurrected him by collecting his scattered parts: "We must find them... As an anthologist might collect/ All the poems that matter," Orr intones. As he pursues that goal, however, his own poems can be overbroad in focus: "The heart knows all/ These songs/ And a million of its own," one poem says. "The risk is always there," a later poem states, "And the challenge, too: To take it in, to feel it, and then/ To speak it back in poems and songs." "When the beloved dies," he explains later, "It's only to ask more of you,/ So you become richer from giving." Near the end, Orr describes his own poetry as "a silent saying/ Of all/ We hold dear." Poems about earlier poets (Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Apollinaire) add detail but fail to change the tone. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592294
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,032,691
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

The beloved is dead 9
Who wants to lose the world 10
When I open the book 11
It's not magic; it isn't a trick 12
Sadness is there; too 13
Isis kneels on the banks 14
The poem is written on the body 15
"What is life?" 16
The things that die 17
I read the book for years 19
I've known grief 20
I want to go back 21
How easy to give up hope 22
There's nothing occult going on 23
Can a river flow beside itself? 24
When Sappho wrote 25
How radiant and pale 26
Salt on the roads melts 27
The river has a single song 28
The world comes into the poem 29
Smart or dumb? Who cares? 30
Those who wake 31
If death, then grief, right? 32
Suppose you could evoke 33
Those dreams in which a phantom 34
Everything dies. Nothing dies 35
Silence 36
The beloved has gone away 38
Some of the poems are clear 39
Tears and laughter 40
Reading and writing poems 41
Lighten up, lighten up 42
Too many mysteries 43
To feel, to feel, to feel 47
Sometimes happy, sometimes sad 48
Or is it loss ahead 49
Concentrating on those motions 50
To lose the loved one 51
Even the saddest poems have journeyed 53
Nothing more beautiful than the body 54
Someone else called out 55
Why should the grave be final? 56
Listening to Bach's solo suites 57
Now the snow is falling 58
It's winter and I think of spring 59
I never planned to die 60
When my kids look for me I hope 61
How small the eyes of hate 62
How large the eyes of love 63
Scratched with a stick in snow 64
To become the tree 65
Could it all be said in a single poem 66
Who can measure the gratitude 67
When we're young there's lots 68
To add our own suffering 69
To hold a pane of glass 70
Nesting dolls 71
Of course, a book about living 72
When you are sad 73
To be alive 74
Calm down, calm down 75
So obvious that the voice can cease 76
Facing away from the light 77
Weeping, weeping, weeping 78
The human heart 79
To loll in a sensual torpor 80
I saw my own body 81
How to exhaust the inexhaustible? 82
Time to shut up 83
We'd only just met 84
Snow on the tree branch 86
Tired of the body? 87
You might think 88
All the different books you read 91
You can read the world 92
How badly the world needs words 93
How the crocus pops up 94
The dandelion, too 95
Oh, I know: the beloved 96
They said to me : here 97
Let's remake the world with words 98
In the spring swamp 99
Weighed down with the weight 100
Humid morning 101
The sun : a hot hand 102
No one is grateful 103
How could that Chinese poet 104
July sun on the green leaves 105
Hummingbird's furious 106
Whitman's list of the things he could see 107
Today only a single poem 109
Waking now, and we didn't even know 110
No one I ever believed said 111
The beloved often 112
Spasm and sadness 113
To guillaume Apollinaire, the beloved 114
Saying the word 115
Not the first lessons of grief 116
We exist in the mortal world only 117
Skitterbugs on the stream's surface 118
How is it I'm tired 119
The grapes taste good 120
Some say you're lucky 121
When you're afraid 122
How can lines 123
The poet approaches the lectern 124
Bittersweet, bittersweet 127
Ripeness of summer 128
Wildness of the world 129
There's the daisy 130
Yes, our human time is finite 131
Last night, a huge storm 132
All that sorrow 133
When we lost the beloved 134
Rain last night 135
Naked before the beloved 136
No postmortems, please 137
Oh, to be deeply naked 138
I thought I was hunting 139
Long night on the road 140
If we could have the world 141
Autumn with its too-muchness 142
Is the beloved greedy 143
Eyes blurred with tears 144
My mother's joy 145
What suffering! 146
What did someone cynically 147
A song of resurrection played 148
The world looks 149
When the world 150
Not deepest grief 151
If deepest grief is hell 152
And it happens, of course 153
This room crowded 154
Clearing out the room 155
I put the beloved 156
Not the loss alone 157
Memories : embers 158
Scar they stare at 159
Now the leaves are falling fiercely 163
Not to make loss beautiful 164
The beloved moves through the world 165
The world so huge and dark 166
Going to the reading 167
You went to the reading 168
Expecting so much 169
Such a shaking 170
The poem didn't express 171
That desolation is the door 172
Some days it's all fuzzy 173
Body of the beloved 174
How lucky we are 175
For me, my brother 176
Invisible distance between 177
Words not just the empty 178
Hold off, rain 179
Where did the beloved go? 180
Even before speech 181
The motions so cautious 182
To see the beloved 183
Were we invited? 184
Acrobatic postures I enjoyed 185
If a peach leads you into the world 186
Autumn 187
Sudden shower 188
Do words outlast 189
Did the beloved die? 190
Why should it all 191
Black marks 192
No longer a part 193
You lost the beloved 194
And if not you, then who? 195
An anthology gathered 196
His song was about the world 197
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