POETRY

The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write

Norton. Jun. 2019. 128p. ISBN 9781324002352. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781324002369. POETRY
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Veteran poet Orr (River Inside the River) here revisits themes that have shaped his writing from the beginning, examining the transcendent and finding it wanting compared with the here-and-now and especially the affirmative beauties of poetry. In a poem on his accidentally killing his brother in a hunting accident, an event that figures hugely in his life and work, he says exasperatedly, “Who knows what He was up to,/ …I knew/ God and I were through,” and he repeatedly throws down a challenge not just to some august deity but the very idea of one. The wise and witty word play–rife “Ode to Nothing” opens by pointing out that with atoms mostly empty “nothing holds/ The universe together,” and of course he’s talking not just physically but metaphysically. Elsewhere, he expresses impatience with the search for explanation or deep meaning, insisting that when “the world/ Suddenly turns ugly// …“Don’t waste time trying/ To understand, just fight/ For your life.” But poetry? That’s different; as Orr says in “Reading Dickinson,” “Roar of the Abyss?/ Yes, but above it,/ Her clear/ And human voice,/ Singing as she drowns.”
VERDICT Orr will appeal to a wide range of readers as he asks big questions in accessible language.

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