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Foreword MagazineOrr's early poetry, generously excerpted here, draws from wounds and losses so deep that they seemed to evade narration: his fleshly and tender lyricism was shot through with violence. "You hold your hands up to the light," he wrote in "Going Out":
The small mirrors of your fingernails
are painted over with blood...
We have a hunger that nothing has
It grows large and rigid.
We stand in it like a room.
His surrealist beginnings strengthened throughout seven books, with dream narratives and imagery from the ominous folktales of childhood as well as from Greek literature mixing, more and more, with details of a lived life. The new poems continue to showcase Orr's gift for imagery and sound, as in "Heart": "Cavity and spasm:/ a spark can start/ it; parting stop it.// Such a radiant husk/ to hive our dust!" But a number of villanelles (what Orr has called, in an interview, "emblem[s] of obsession") indicate a windshift: here, he's writing of paradise, forgiveness, the lightning bolt of immediate, irreversible change. Whether read as an introduction to this poet's intensely beautiful work or as a welcome revisiting, The Caged Owl is an important, an unignorable, collection.