cover image Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved

Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved

Gregory Orr, . . Copper Canyon, $18 (199pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-229-4

Orr's first book since The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002) has little in common with the hushed, observant lyric that made his reputation in the 1970s; this eighth collection is, instead, a confident, mystical, expansive project, whose very clear short poems (almost 200 of them) constitute a meditation and ritual for grieving a lost beloved. The first poem invokes the Egyptian god Osiris, whose lover Isis resurrected him by collecting his scattered parts: "We must find them... As an anthologist might collect/ All the poems that matter," Orr intones. As he pursues that goal, however, his own poems can be overbroad in focus: "The heart knows all/ These songs/ And a million of its own," one poem says. "The risk is always there," a later poem states, "And the challenge, too: To take it in, to feel it, and then/ To speak it back in poems and songs." "When the beloved dies," he explains later, "It's only to ask more of you,/ So you become richer from giving." Near the end, Orr describes his own poetry as "a silent saying/ Of all/ We hold dear." Poems about earlier poets (Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Apollinaire) add detail but fail to change the tone. (Nov.)