Gregory Orr

Poet Information

Gregory Orr

About the Poet

Gregory Orr was born February 3, 1947 in Albany, New York. He grew up in the rural Hudson Valley. At the age of twelve, he was involved in accidentally killing his younger brother in a hunting accident, an event that powerfully influenced his ideas about trauma, silence and poetry. In 1965, at the age of eighteen, he worked as a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi. During that time, he was kidnapped at gunpoint in rural Alabama and held for a week in solitary confinement in the town of Hayneville. These events of his youth form the basis of his memoir, The Blessing, which tells the story of his childhood and how he came to poetry.

Orr attended Hamilton College, then transferred to Antioch College, from which he received a B.A in 1969. He received his MFA degree in 1972 from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He then spent three years as a Junior Fellow in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. Since 1975, he has taught at the University of Virginia, where he was the founder and first director of its MFA Program in Writing.

He is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, including River Inside the River: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2013), How Beautiful the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), and The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2002).

In 2018, W.W. Norton published a book based on his teaching principles entitled A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry. He has also the author of Poetry as Survival (University of Georgia Press, 2002), a consideration of the existential function of the personal lyric, a collection of essays on poetry Richer Entanglements (University of Michigan, 1993) and a book about his former teacher and long-time friend, Stanley Kunitz (An Introduction to the Poetry of Stanley Kunitz; Columbia University Press, 1985). He co-edited the anthology Poets Teaching Poets with Ellen Bryant Voigt (University of Michigan Press, 1996).

His personal essay “This I Believe” was chosen to be broadcast on National Public Radio in the spring of 2006. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (twice), and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1985, he traveled extensively in the former Yugoslavia as a visiting writer under the Fulbright Program. He has taught and lectured at the National Gallery of Art as well as at various low-residency programs and summer workshops.

He is married to the painter Trisha Orr and the father of two daughters, Eliza and Sophia. He and his wife will divide their time between a house in the Adirondack Mountains and their home in Charlottesville Virginia.

From &



Virginia City or County Affiliation

Charlottesville, Virginia

Current City/State of Residence

Charlottesville, Virginia





Year of Birth


Published Works or Performances


  • Burning the Empty Nests. Harper & Row, 1973.
  • Gathering the Bones Together. Harper & Row, 1975.
  • The Red House. Harper & Row, 1980.
  • We Must Make a Kingdom of It. Wesleyan University Press, 1986.
  • New and Selected Poems. Wesleyan University Press, 1988.
  • City of Salt. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995.
  • Orpheus & Eurydice. Copper Canyon Press, 2001.
  • The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems. Copper Canyon Press, 2002.
  • Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved. Copper Canyon Press, 2005.
  • How Beautiful the Beloved. Copper Canyon Press, 2009.
  • River Inside the River. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.
  • The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write. W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
  • A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry. W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
  • Stanley Kunitz: An Introduction to Poetry. Columbia University Press, 1985.
  • Richer Entanglements: Essays and Notes on Poetry and Poems. University of Michigan Press, 1993.
  • Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World. (edited by Voigt and Orr) University of Michigan Press, 1996.
  • Poetry as Survival. University of Georgia Press, 2002.
  • The Blessing. Milkweed Editions, revised reissue, 2019.

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Gregory Orr