“I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions, and traumatic events that come with being alive." –Gregory Orr
“Gregory Orr’s poems have always had the stunning ability to place mindfulness almost instantly back inside the mind. Once again, a river inhabits its true banks, and a soul, its boundless person.” —Naomi Shihab Nye
“The heart of Orr’s poetry, now as ever, is the enigmatic image—mystical, carnal, reflective, wry.” —San Francisco Review
Gregory Orr, the author of more than ten collections of poetry and several volumes of essays, criticism, and memoir, is a master of brevity and the personal lyric. Critic Hank Lazer observes: “From Burning the Empty Nests to the present, Orr gradually developed the ability to fuse his incredible skill at visual precision—the signature of his image-based work in his very first book—with an insistent musical quality, joining visual precision with a beauty of sound.”
As a twelve-year-old boy, Orr accidentally killed his brother in a hunting incident, an event his family was never able to talk about. His mother died soon thereafter, and Orr found the transformative power of language through poetry. His later near-death experience as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, in which he was jailed and severely beaten, contributed to the urgency with which his poems sought transformation.
Orr has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He has also been a Fulbright Scholar and a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Culture and Violence, and he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. City of Salt was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award for Poetry.
Orr received his B.A. from Antioch College and his MFA from Columbia University. He founded the MFA program at the University of Virginia in 1975, and was the poetry editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review from 1978 to 2003.
Burning the Empty Nests (1973)
Gathering the Bones Together (1975)
The Red House (1980)
We Must Make a Kingdom of It (1986)
New and Selected Poems (1988)
City of Salt (1995)
Orpheus & Eurydice (2001)
The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002)
Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved (2005)
How Beautiful the Beloved (2009)
River Inside the River (2013)
Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World (1996)
Poetry as Survival (2002)
The Blessing (2002)