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.
“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)
“This inspiring collection of reviews and essays on the pleasures of poetry by New York Times poetry columnist Orr 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” … 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