It’s not magic; it isn’t a trick

Gregory Orr

It’s not magic; it isn’t a trick.Every breath is a resurrection.And when we hear the poemThat is the world, when our eyesGaze at the beloved’s body,We’re reborn in all the sacred partsOf our own bodies:                                            The heartContracts, the brainReleases its showerOf sparks,                        And the tearEmbarks on its pilgrimageDown the cheek to meetThe smiling mouth.           

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Color headshot of poet Gregory Orr

Gregory Orr is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Selected Books of the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). He is also the author of a memoir, The Blessing (reissued Milkweed Editions, 2019), which was chosen by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the fifty best non-fiction books of 2002. His autobiographical essay on his experiences as a volunteer in the Civil Rights Movement, “Return to Hayneville,” was reprinted in Best Essays of 2009, Best Creative Non-fiction 2009, and Pushcart Prizes. In addition, he is the author of Poetry as Survival (University of Georgia Press, 2002), a consideration of the existential function of the personal lyric, and A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry (W. W. Norton 2018). He’s been interviewed by Krista Tippett for her “On Being” series and his personal essay was chosen to be broadcast on National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” series in the spring of 2006. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Virginia, where he taught since 1975 and was the founder and first director of its MFA Program in Writing. He lives with his wife, the painter Trisha Orr in Charlottesville, Virginia.


“Gregory Orr’s new book is dazzling and timeless. Sure, the trappings of modern life appear at the edges of these poems, but their focus is so unwaveringly aimed toward the transcendent—not God, but the beloved—that we seem to slip into a less cluttered time. It’s an experience usually reserved for reading the ancients, and clearly that was partly Orr’s inspiration.”
Virginia Quarterly Review

“[Orr’s] eighth collection is… a confident, mystical, expansive project, whose very clear short poems (almost 200 of them) constitute a meditation and ritual for grieving a lost beloved.”
Publishers Weekly

Concerning the Book… is the fulfillment of everything lyric Orr has attained, and is less a book of modern poems than it is something timeless, immediately calling to mind the ecstasies of Rumi or Hafiz, even Rilke.”

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.