Category Archives: poetry

Gregory Orr: “This I Believe: The Making of Poems”

Gregory Orr wrote in his essay This I Believe: The Making of Poems:

“I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions and traumatic events that come with being alive.

“….Because poems are meanings, even the saddest poem I write is proof that I want to survive.

“….Whenever I read a poem that moves me, I know I’m not alone in the world. I feel a connection to the person who wrote it, knowing that he or she has gone through something similar to what I’ve experienced, or felt something like what I have felt. And their poem gives me hope and courage, because I know that they survived, that their life force was strong enough to turn experience into words and shape it into meaning and then bring it toward me to share. The gift of their poem enters deeply into me and helps me live and believe in living.”

The latter part of this succinctly and beautifully makes sense of all the things I was trying to explain in a prior post about JT LeRoy. Art can an act of survival and a (sometimes dark) joy-taking in that urge to press forward, to keep living and trying to thrive.

Here’s one (of many) Gregory Orr poem(s) that I like:

The Project

My plan was to generate light
with no outside source.
To accomplish this, I lived alone
in a burrow under the earth.
Previously I had observed
that in darkness my body
gave off a faint light. Suspecting
that this glow came from the bones,
I scraped the flesh from my right hand.
I’d been underground so long
the meat came off
painlessly, like wet clay.
But when the flesh was gone,
the light was gone too.


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Filed under art, poetry, trauma