February 17, 2006 — Gregory S. Orr, a professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia, l read a personal essay on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” on Monday, Feb. 20, 2006.
The essay is part of NPR’s national “This I Believe” project, which invites Americans from all walks of life to share brief essays describing the core values and beliefs that guide their lives. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Orr’s essay discusses how poetry helped him to survive the traumas of his youth, which included experiencing the deaths of his brother and mother, and enduring a week in solitary confinement after being kidnapped by armed vigilantes while serving as a civil rights volunteer in the Deep South.
“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,” he writes in his essay.
To hear Orr’s essay in its entirety, go to the This I Believe Web site.
Gregory Orr has published nine collections of poetry, a memoir and a book exploring the cultural function of the lyric. The recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships, he has also been a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Violence. He has taught at the University of Virginia since 1975, where he is a professor of English. He lives with his wife in Charlottesville, Va., and they have two daughters.