Alan Harnum

A Found Poetry Chapbook from 2017 for Poetry Month

04 Apr 2020

In the summer of 2017 I used American poet Gregory Orr’s book Poetry as Survival as the source text for a series of found poems, which I shared with only a few friends who were also fans of Orr’s work. Since I first read the book in 2013 after discovering Orr’s work via his remarkable short poem Origin of the Marble Forest, I have returned to it several times and always found it a valuable grounding experience for reflecting on one of the motivating forces in my own writing.

As I write this now almost three years later, I am nearly a month into “social distancing” to try and slow the spread of a pandemic, along with millions of others in my own country and hundreds of millions more throughout the world. Yesterday, we put our older cat to sleep after discovering he was in advanced stage liver failure. Among other methods of coping, I’ve found myself repeatedly reading Muriel Rukeyser’s Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars) as a way of reminding myself that while this particular situation in this particular time may be unprecedented, the feelings that arise from it are nothing new to the human condition. I take some comfort in that.

I have also found myself rereading Orr, who is both a fine poet of individual and societal trauma, and a powerful expositor in Poetry as Survival of how poetry and trauma intertwine. These days, I am feeling, very keenly, Orr’s contention that “acts of writing, reading, and listening to lyric bring ordering powers to the chaos that surrounds us”.

So because it’s Poetry Month again and we’re all in quarantine, in case it is of interest to anyone I am making it available at this link. I believe I have followed the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry in remixing Orr’s prose, and I would encourage anyone interested by the chapbook’s content to read the original book, which is excellent and insightful.