The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems [NOOK Book]


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 ...
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The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems

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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,

"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
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Editorial Reviews

Foreword Magazine
Orr'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.
Publishers Weekly
The constraints of personal narrative are stretched to their limits in this summation from Orr, an editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia, as his poems are often based on tragic experiences occurring to those close to him. Orr's archetypal subject in the new poems and selections from six previous collections (including City of Salt and We Must Make a Kingdom of It) is fratricide. As a child, Orr accidentally shot and killed his young brother in a hunting accident. In "Gathering the Bones Together," his speaker describes the experience in a trademark clenched, almost self-flagellatingly declarative style: "I was twelve when I killed him; I felt my own bones wrench from my body." "A Litany" returns to the subject: "I remember him falling beside me, the dark stain already seeping across his parka hood I remember screaming and running the half mile to our house." And the experience is echoed by the poet's agonized critique, "To My Father, Dying": "Where is your scorn now? Where your jaggedness, old antagonist?... Your handsome face gone slack..." For Orr, even a young daughter's bloodying herself seems fair game for a poem, as when, "against admonishment, my daughter balanced on the couch back, fell and cut her mouth." There are some attempts at relieving the gloom, as in "Best" "To live and love is best" or "A Shelf Is a Ledge," where a volume of Darwin "screams in the dark: Survive! Survive!" Still, the threnody of titles here, like "Song of the Invisible Corpse in the Field" and "Song: Early Death of the Mother," makes for a consistently mournful stance that, perhaps purposefully, does not advance linguistically or emotionally. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619320635
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 12/11/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 748,695
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Gregory Orr is the author of ten books of poetry, four collections of criticism, and a memoir that was selected by Publishers Weekly as a "Best Book of the Year." The former poetry editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review, Orr teaches at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville.
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Read an Excerpt

Some Part of the Lyric
Some part of the lyric wants to exclude
the world with all its chaos and grief
and so conceives shapes (a tear, a globe of dew)

whose cool symmetries create a mood
of security. Which is something all need
and so, the lyric's urge to exclude

what hurts us isn't simply a crude
defense, but an embracing of a few
essential shapes: a tear, a globe of dew.

But to what end? Are there clues
in these forms to deeper mysteries
that no good poem should exclude?

What can a stripped art reveal? Is a nude
more naked than the eye can see?
Can a tear freed of salt be a globe of dew?

And most of all is it something we can use?
Yes, but only as long as its beauty,
like that of a tear or a globe of dew,
reflects the world it meant to exclude.

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Table of Contents

Heart 5
Here 6
(Trauma) Storm 7
Screaming Out Loud 8
Tin Cup 9
Bolt from the Blue 10
What I'm Saying 13
The River 14
Paradise 15
Some Part of the Lyric 16
Some Notes on Shadows 17
The Journey 26
Fall 28
Two Poems about Nothing 29
Nothing and the Incident in the Streets 31
A Dream of Fifty 37
Shaky Spectrum 38
The Talk 39
The Excavation 40
If There's a God ... 42
To My Father, Dying 44
Celestial Desolations 45
Best 46
Wild Heart 47
Paradise Lightning Dazzle 48
Be-all 53
Washing My Face 57
Silence 58
"Transients Welcome" 59
The Girl with Eighteen Nightgowns 60
The Doll 61
Getting Dressed 62
Manhattan Island Poem 63
A Parable 64
The Dinner 65
The Bridge 66
Love Poem 67
The Room 68
Making Beasts 69
Poem to the Mother 70
The Fast 71
Going Out 72
Lines Written in Dejection, Oklahoma 73
Daffodil Poem 74
Sleeping Alone in a Small Room 75
October 76
Trying to Sleep 77
Singing the Pain Back into the Wound 78
Poem 79
Beginning 80
Gathering the Bones Together 83
A Life 86
The Cage 87
The Snail 88
Two Lines from the Brothers Grimm 89
The Hats 90
Domestic Life 91
The King of the Earthworms 93
The Sweater 94
A Large White Rock Called "The Sleeping Angel" 95
All Morning 96
The Builders 97
Overtaken by Fog While Climbing 98
Like Any Other Man 99
The Lost Children 103
Morning Song 107
The Ditch 108
Neighbors 110
Work Gloves 111
The Brave Child 112
Adolescence 113
Horses 114
Sunday School Picnic: What Endures 115
Walking Home after the First Encounter 116
The Migrant Camps 117
Memorial Day 118
After a Death 119
Driving Home after a Funeral 120
Song of the Invisible Corpse in the Field 121
Spring Floods 122
In Haiti 123
Song: Early Death of the Mother 126
The Weeds 127
A Half-Dead Black Cherry Tree across the Road from My Childhood House 128
Three Songs 130
There 132
Beggar's Song 133
Swamp Songs 134
Indian Summer 135
After the Guest 136
Reading Late in the Cottage 137
The Caged Owl 138
Friday Lunchbreak 139
Virginia Backyard: July 140
On the Lawn at Ira's 141
A Story Sassetta Paints 142
Leaving the Asylum 143
An Abandoned, Overgrown Cemetery in the Pasture near Our House 144
We Must Make a Kingdom of It 147
Poem in New York 148
Visit to the Island of Lost Souls 150
A Shelf Is a Ledge 152
Poem 153
Nantucket Morning/This World 154
Chateaubriand on the Niagara Frontier, 1791 155
Elegy 156
Reverie 157
The Pond 158
November 159
The Demonstration 160
On a Highway East of Selma, Alabama 161
Solitary Confinement 163
Hotel St. Louis, New York City, Fall 1969 164
The Trick 167
Available Now: Archaic Torsos of Both Sexes 168
Lucky 169
After Botticelli's Birth of Venus 170
The Fifth Month 171
The Voyages 172
The Hand: "Brightness Falls from the Air" 173
Tableau Vivant 174
The Teachers 175
The Western Invention of Lyrical Nature 176
A Field in New England 177
A Song 178
The Tree 179
Origin of the Marble Forest 183
A Litany 184
A Moment 185
Everything 186
Elegy 187
A Dark Night 188
Who'd Want to Be a Man? 189
The Vase 190
Ala Mysterieuse 191
The Gray Fox 192
The Cliff 193
Self-Portrait at Twenty 194
Muse of Midnight 195
Tristan and Iseult 196
After Piero di Cosimo's Venus, Mars, and Amor 197
Glukupikron 198
Lament 199
Investigation 201
My Father's Voice 202
The Gift 203
Father's Song 204
The City of Salt 205
The Entrance to the Underworld 209
When I first saw ... 210
A snake ... 211
His Lament 212
If ... 213
When I was alive ... 214
I was moving ... 215
When Eurydice saw him 216
The Ghosts Listen to Orpheus Sing 217
My body was never marred 218
When they said ... 219
In the cave mouth ... 220
Once the two of us 221
In the shadows ... 222
His Grief 223
Far below, plowed fields ... 224
The Wedge 225
His Dream: The Black Tree/Thirst 226
Fields took on ... 227
About the Author 229
Index of Titles 231
Index of First Lines 233
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