Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved is, as Greg Orr's work has always been, firm and definitive, as is the first step on a ladder. But this time his book has a new and thrilling dimension. What other poet do you know who would give his work such a title ambitious and humble at the same time? He speaks now, in these many short poems, which in their entirety are really one long poem, of mysteries, of those things emotions, situations, mind and heart states which are beyond the definitive. In earlier works he spoke of events that were applicable to himself perhaps, and also to some other lives, but were not general; here he speaks of the events that have no larger or more important rival in our lives of our love and our loving, which is both general to us as humans and yet particular to each of us. Greg Orr is here a Walt Whitman without an inch of Whitman's bunting or oratory. Greg Orr is a gorgeous poet and this is a gorgeous book." Mary Oliver
"The heart of Orr's poetry, now as ever, is the enigmatic image...mystical, carnal, reflective, wry." San Francisco Review
"Gregory Orr's new book is dazzling and timeless. Sure, the trappings of modern life appear at the edges of these poems, but their focus is so unwaveringly aimed toward the transcendent not God, but the beloved that we seem to slip into a less cluttered time....The effect is blinding and impressionistic, but the careful study of what is barely seen reveals more than any total picture ever could." Ted Genoways, The Virginia Quarterly Review
(read the entire VQR review
Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved is an incantatory celebration that pushes the ecstatic lyric into epic realms. Gregory Orr discovers the Beloved in everything, everywhere, and reconnects us in the tradition of Rumi and Hafiz to our emotional lives. Orr's ambitious and visionary lyrics explore every dimension of what it is to be human, and this imagined "Book" is a dynamic repository of expressive forms that tells humanity's stories.
Gregory Orr's ambitious and visionary lyrics explores every dimension of what it is to be human
About the Author
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.