The Making of Poems by Gregory Orr

“When I write a poem, I process experience. I take what’s inside me — the raw, chaotic material of feeling or memory — and translate it into words and then shape those words into the rhythmical language we call a poem. This process brings me a kind of wild joy. Before I was powerless and passive in the face of my confusion, but now I am active: the powerful shaper of my experience. I am transforming it into a lucid meaning.

Because poems are meanings, even the saddest poem I write is proof that I want to survive. And therefore it represents an affirmation of life in all its complexities and contradictions.

An additional miracle comes to me as the maker of poems: Because poems can be shared between poet and audience, they also become a further triumph over human isolation.

Whenever I read a poem that moves me, I know I’m not alone in the world. I feel a connection to the person who wrote it, knowing that he or she has gone through something similar to what I’ve experienced, or felt something like what I have felt. And their poem gives me hope and courage, because I know that they survived, that their life force was strong enough to turn experience into words and shape it into meaning and then bring it toward me to share. The gift of their poem enters deeply into me and helps me live and believe in living.”

Gossamer Wings


Spiral stair descending
Lavender brick steps pave my path
Hands in applause pattering

Escape is seldom an option
Or do you mean escape to the inside –
quick change artist , yes, I am that,
I reign as queen of camouflage
and have a character repertoire
that deserves the theatre’s mask -–
yes, appropriately —
comedy of errors.

And do you remember my name?
My foot strikes the rippled floor
now alight with bits of flame
Be aware. The matches flare.
The eyes of the wise see the scheme
While Inferno’s maze
melts vision into confusion
And the safe house where I huddle turns ablaze.

“Climb on,” a whisper.
“Upon my back.
Do not hesitate, my gossamer wings are strong.”

I do not fear the ride,
nor deny my pleasure at being accepted as I am,
Relief swallows fear
A gentleness wraps me in soft tissue
And the brush of wings dusts away the tears upon my cheeks.


“My grandfather was a fisherman. His name was Ettore, but everyone called him “Bo,” which is an exclamation in dialect that means “Beats me” or “Don’t ask me” or “How should I know?” Like the rest of the family, he was anti-Fascist. During World War II, the Fascists put him in charge of all the civilians in Orbetello, and it was his responsibility to report anyone who did anything against the uniformed soldiers who occupied the town. They would say something like, “There is a man up in the hills. We are looking for him. Do you know where he is hiding?” And my grandfather would shrug his shoulders and say, “Bo?” So he was known as Bo Solimeno until the day he died.”

Cooking in Tuscany