On Our Shelves Now
A collection of reviews and essays by David Orr, the New York Times poetry columnist and one of the most respected critics in America today, his best work of the past fifteen years in one place
Poetry is never more vital, meaningful, or accessible than in the hands of David Orr. In the pieces collected here, most of them written originally for the New York Times, Orr is at his rigorous, conversational, and edifying best. Whether he is considering the careers of contemporary masters, such as Louise Glück or Frederick Seidel, sizing up younger American poets, like Matthea Harvey and Matthew Zapruder, or even turning his attention to celebrities and public figures, namely Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Fry, when they choose to wade into the hotly contested waters of the poetry world, Orr is never any less than fully persuasive in arguing what makes a poem or poet great—or not. After all, as Orr points out in his introduction, “Poetry is a lot like America, in the sense that liking all of it means that you probably shouldn’t be trusted with money, or scissors.”
Orr’s prose is devoted to common sense and clarity, and, in every case, he brings to bear an impeccable ear, an openhandedness of spirit, and a deep wealth of technical knowledge—to say nothing of his shrewd sense of humor. As pleasurable as it is informative, Orr’s journalism represents a high watermark in the public discussion of literature. You, Too, Could Write a Poem is at heart a love note to poetry itself.
About the Author
David Orr is the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is the winner of the Nona Balakian Prize from the National Book Critics Circle, and his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, and the Yale Review. He holds a B.A. from Princeton and a J.D. from Yale Law School and is a visiting professor at Cornell University.
“Orr writes with generous reasonableness and accessibility. He’s also a gifted practitioner of similes . . . But most of all he possesses an apparent and infectious love for his subject, and his passionate expertise makes this book an elucidating joy.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Equal parts illuminating commentary and hilarious jabs at the poetry world’s insularity and pretensions . . . Among his many skills, Orr displays a singular ability to capture a poet’s sensibility . . . Orr is an exceptional wit and critical talent, with perhaps his most brilliant feat here being how he dissolves some of poetry’s opacity and makes it more accessible (and interesting) to a wider audience.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“[David Orr] is an advocate of good poetry, and his rigorous, witty criticism is some of the best and most distinctive. If the words ‘poetry criticism’ make you think, “I’m outta here,” consider some of the intriguing introductions in this collection . . . Orr could easily stick it to people as well, given his keen intelligence and deep understanding of the subject matter. Yet throughout this engaging collection, he’s like the smart, provocative guy who is invited to every dinner party because he’s so insightful and often makes people laugh . . . These reviews are always thoughtful and memorable, and sometimes surprisingly creative . . . Both casual readers and serious poets can benefit from reading YOU, TOO, COULD WRITE A POEM which not only provides stimulating reading but exemplifies what Orr says is the highest compliment you can pay to a poetry critic – to think of his writing the next time you encounter a good poem.”—Elizabeth Lund, The Christian Science Monitor
“This inspiring collection of reviews and essays on the pleasures of . . . is a powerful example of why he is one of our sanest (and therefore most important) voices on this too-often-neglected art. The great gift that Orr brings to the discussion is his openness and willingness to grapple with the ‘actual experience of reading a poem.’ Perhaps Orr's background in law gives him this eye for the particularities of a poem and the need to build a case (for or against) not through agendas and theories but through evidence and facts. That attention is definitely his greatest strength, but it is delightfully paired with a delicious wit. Whether he is writing about "Oprah's Adventures in Poetry Land" or making a reference to TV's crime-solving attorney Matlock, Orr is always a fascinating, clever, and inspiring guide (perhaps most especially when it comes to the wonders of Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin). Readers curious about the state of contemporary poetry and the value of reading a poem will love this book (even when they don't agree with it). VERDICT All poetry collections should have a copy, and every librarian should be ready to put this charming volume in the hands of readers.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Fresh, vigorous, spirited views on poets and their work. Award-winning New York Times poetry columnist Orr gathers 45 essays and reviews that amply demonstrate his irreverent wit and shrewd insights about poets, poems, and poetry readers . . . Orr cares about conveying his views in pithy, often elegant prose and—perhaps bringing to bear his training as a lawyer—defending those views with exacting analyses . . . Orr says the greatest compliment for any critic ‘is to say that you found yourself thinking of his writing the next time you encountered a good poem.’ He abundantly deserves that same praise.”—Kirkus Reviews