Ars Poetica V (personal lyric)

I found this book which I had left unfinished. And started re-reading:

… for a poem to move us it must bring us near our own threshold. We must feel genuinely threatened or destabilized by the poem’s vision of disordering, even as we are simultaneously reassured and convinced by its orderings

Gregory Orr: Poetry as Survival

The poetics of Gregory Orr is centered on an idea – or a poetic form – he has chosen to call PERSONAL LYRIC. This is how he describes it:

  • a personal lyric is a poem that usually features an I and that focuses on autobiographical experience or a personal crisis of some sort.
  • personal lyric assist the individual self to cope by making sense to experience.
  • In personal lyric, the self encounters its existential crisis in symbolic form – the poem that result is a model of this encounter.
  • By making such a dramatized, expressive model of its crisis, the self is able to acknowledge the existence, nature and power of what is destabilizing it, while at the same time asserting its ultimate mastery over the disordering by the power of linguistic and imaginative orderings.
  • BUT: personal lyric doesn’t simplistically turn disorder into order or chaos into cosmos — In personal lyric disorder is dynamic = a driving force.



TRISHA ORR: If To Say It. oil on canvas, 2009-11

In a 2013 interview, Gregory Orr expand on his aesthetics, saying:

  • 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. And therefore it represents an affirmation of life in all its complexities and contradictions.
  • Whenever I read a poem that moves me, I know I’m not alone in the world.

Gregory Orr was born in Albany, New York in 1947. He is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, and he is also the author of a memoir, The Blessing (Council Oak Books, 2002), which was chosen by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the fifty best non-fiction books the year, and three books of essays, including Poetry As Survival (2002) 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Stefanie says:

    This sounds really good! What made you put it down the first time you were reading it?

    1. Sigrun says:

      I don’t know … but I suspect my unfocussed mind is to blame – because the text is great!

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