The Bigness of Small Poems – #12 in a Series – Gregory Orr (Again)

American poet Greg Orr

American poet Greg Orr

Sorrow is good;
Tears are good.
But too much
Grief erodes.

What if all
The soft soil
Washes away
And only hard
Furrows remain?

Then what?

Then what can grow in us?

Gregory Orr from The River Inside the River, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013

It seems as if the small poems I chose for this series chose themselves! Wasn’t planning on posting another small Greg Orr poem but I have! The reason: This quote I came across from an interview with Orr in Image Journal in my files today:

When the poet moves her disorder outside herself by turning it into words and then ordering it, she is re-stabilizing herself after being destabilized by experience. She thereby masters an existential situation – joy or despair, trauma or love – that had threatened to master her.

If you yourself can’t make a poem or song about your disorder (but you can, you should), you can instead benefit from someone else’s poem. Their poem can help you make sense of your experience.

It made me think again about Orr’s own experience of how poetry helped him survive in the aftermath of his fatal shooting of his brother in a hunting accident when he was twelve. How poetry helped him keep enough soft soil in his spirit so life could grow in him again. For Orr’s Op Ed piece about this in the New York Times Magazine in 2014 click here.

Orr expresses the truth for him of the stabilizing and therapeutic power of poetry in this small poem:

First, there was shatter.
Then aftermath.

Only later and only slowly
We gathered words
Against our loss.

But last was not least,
Last was not least of these.

Gregory Orr, ibid


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