One of our recommended books for 2019 is The Blessing by Gregory Orr

THE BLESSING

A Memoir


Hailed on its original publication as “eloquent testimony to the engaging power of art in a man’s life” (Washington Post), this deeply moving memoir, long out of print, is reissued with an illuminating new afterword.

When acclaimed poet Gregory Orr was twelve years old, he shot and killed his brother in a hunting accident. From the immediate aftermath—a period of shock, sadness, and isolation—it quickly became clear that support and guidance would not be coming from his distant mother. Nor would it come from his father, a philandering country doctor addicted to amphetamines. Left to his own devices,

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Hailed on its original publication as “eloquent testimony to the engaging power of art in a man’s life” (Washington Post), this deeply moving memoir, long out of print, is reissued with an illuminating new afterword.

When acclaimed poet Gregory Orr was twelve years old, he shot and killed his brother in a hunting accident. From the immediate aftermath—a period of shock, sadness, and isolation—it quickly became clear that support and guidance would not be coming from his distant mother. Nor would it come from his father, a philandering country doctor addicted to amphetamines. Left to his own devices, the boy suffered.

Guilt weighed on him throughout a childhood split between the rural Hudson Valley and jungles of Haiti. As a young man, his feelings and a growing sense of idealism prompted him to activism in the civil rights movement, where he marched and was imprisoned, and then scarred again by a terrifying abduction. Eventually, Orr’s experiences led him to understand that art, particularly poetry, could work as a powerful source of healing and meaning to combat the trauma he carried.

Throughout The Blessing, Orr articulates his journey in language as lyrical as it is authentic, gifting us all with a singular tale of survival, and of the transformation of suffering into art.

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  • Milkweed Editions
  • Paperback
  • August 2019
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781571313867

Buy the Book

$15.00

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About Gregory Orr

Gregory Orr is the author of The BlessingGregory Orr is the author of more than ten collections of poems, including, most recently, The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write, and several volumes of essays, criticism and memoir. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for The Blessing.

Praise

“[Orr] is a poet in the lyric tradition―the poetry of emotions, often in the voice of individual experience, which also lends itself to song.”―Krista Tippett, On Being

“Orr has dedicated his life and work to redeeming suffering through poetry as lyric biography. He feels this project has saved him from wandering in a wilderness, reassured by conversations with readers and with writers living and dead who have faced similar loss, pain, and transformative beauty. All his work is of a piece, poems, essays, and memoir: a song of experience, joining a chorus of meaning.” ―American Academy of Arts and Letters

“Orr balances lyric grace with careful restraint to produce a convincing memoir about facing down despair. . . . Orr manages to confer spiritual power upon his readers by finding meaning in what most of us could not bear to endure.”―San Francisco Chronicle

The Blessing is an extraordinary book, full of luminous details, beautifully clear writing, and short, gorgeous chapters. . . . While The Blessing tells the story of becoming a poet and recounts a childhood full of wonder, it is more insistently a tale of survival, of a painful blessing, wounding, and growing through trauma and tragedy.”―American Poetry Review

“Orr has accomplished an incredible feat, managing to bring together his tragic and triumphant personal narrative with his belief in the importance and impact of the personal lyric poem. . . . A sophisticated and convincing case for the ‘transformative power’ of lyric poetry, as evidenced in Orr’s own life experiences.” ―Valparaiso Poetry Review

“For Orr, poetry was a thread to hold onto during his darkest hours. Once he had hold of that thread, Orr knew that he could find his way out of the labyrinth of his own consciousness. . . . This book offers eloquent testimony to the engaging power of art in a man’s life.” ―Washington Post

“The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author’s search for ways to live on. . . . Writing has sustained him. . . . Here, the old and new meanings of ‘blessing’―to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power―harrowingly collide.”―Kirkus