For more than a decade, Gregory Orr has been writing toward “the Book:” an imagined tome containing every poem and song ever written. Drawing from a rich tradition of lyric poetry, Selected Books of the Beloved is the culmination of that project, and more—it is a celebration of the transformative power of poetry, and of our extraordinary capacity to feel and to love.
“Orr (The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write) spent over a decade creating this sprawling celebration of the pain and pleasure of being alive and in love with the world. Broken into four sections and spanning multiple “Books,” this collection is a love letter to poetry, using Orr’s words to commit his “bravest deed –/ To wed the world.” Teeming with awe and sensation, these pieces leverage the “occult power of the alphabet” to plumb the depths of the heart, moving skillfully from lust to loss, aging to resurrection, keeping Sappho’s remark that “whatever one loves most is beautiful” in mind. In one magical section, Orr takes the reader to “a place where every poem/ Is a house, and every house a poem,” revealing scenes from Blake’s cottage, Baudelaire’s villa, and Orr’s renderings of the homes of Whitman, Li Bo, and Dickinson. From “word-ships” to “worship” and “wound” to “how/ the world gets in,” Orr plays with language as he expresses his love for his craft. This unbridled pleasure makes the pages of this hefty collection glow.” —Publishers Weekly
“Orr’s short lyrics insist that I stay connected to everything worth holding on to: empathy, perspective, hope, and the root of all these–love. There is a word that stands out to me now: dimensionality. It lives as hope in these poems, a much-needed balm in the face of our current social climate. Most breathtaking is the invitation Orr leaves for the reader: to keep seeking in the face of loss. These poems affirm to me that I exist in both sorrow and joy. I live in the tension of being both unmoored and tethered to the world. We all experience elevating and diminishing moments; our job, this book seems to argue, is to embrace all of it.” —Poetry Daily