AN ELEGANT EPIGRAPH: GREGORY ORR
“Inspired by Rousseau, the Romantics took lyric back from the Overculture. Returning it to its ancient and honorable identity as personal lyric, they used it according to its primordial function of ordering individual lives around emotionally charged experiences and restabilizing the self in a chaotic time.
“It is in the context of the personal lyric and its subset, the transformative lyric, that certain figures emerge; poets who, coping with their own crises and traumas, seized the opportunity to create new selves and new meanings through the making of poems. These poets became poet-heroes by disclosing visionary possibilities that went far beyond their own private situations and revealed hopes and meanings that were broadly useful to others, both contemporaries and those of us who came after. They fulfilled Keats’s dream of being ‘physician to all men.’ Of course, the term ‘all men’ is hyperbolic and, to our postfeminist ears, restrictively sexist. It would be more accurate and thus more complimentary to say that these visionary poets were physicians to broad spectrums of the population who identified with their sense of trauma and confusion and their need for self-transformation.
“Romanticism and its aftermath gave us hero after hero of spiritual renewal through the personal lyric.”—Gregory Orr
—From Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr (University of Georgia Press, 2002)
Visitors are also invited to read my essay review of Gregory Orr, “The Transformative Lyric: Gregory Orr’s The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems, Poetry as Survival, and The Blessing,” which appeared in the Spring/Summer 2003 issue: Volume IV, Number 2 of Valparaiso Poetry Review.
[“An Elegant Epigraph” serves as the recurring title for a continuing series of posts with entries containing brief but engaging, eloquent, and elegant excerpts of prose commentary introducing subjects particularly appropriate to discussion of literature, creative writing, or other relevant matters addressing complementary forms of art and music. These apposite extracts usually concern topics specifically relating to poetry or poetics. Each piece is accompanied by a recommendation that readers seek out the original publication to obtain further information and to become familiar with the complete context in which the chosen quotation appeared as well as other views presented by its author.]