Poetry Friday: “Daybreak”


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry, by Gregory Orr. In the Preface, Orr describes the book as “one poet’s informal exploration of language and self in relation to the impulse to write lyric poetry.” The book includes in-depth analysis of poems through different lenses, as well as prompts and exercises. I found the chapter “Lyric and Narrative: Two Fundamental Ordering Impulses” especially thought-provoking. Orr offers this fundamental distinction between the two:

The narrative poem is searching for something and won’t be happy (complete, unified) until it has found it. By contrast, the lyric poem has a different shape. It constellates around a single center. (p. 82)

Orr goes on to describe the shape a lyric poem as “that of a snowflake or crystal–an intense geometric concentration around a center.”

Isn’t that a wonderful image? As often happens, while searching for one poem, I found another. Although I’ve read and loved “Daybreak” by Galway Kinnell many times, this week I read it with a new appreciation for how Kinnell’s words “constellate around a single center.”

by Galway Kinnell

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity they sank down
into the mud; they faded down
into it and lay still; and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.


Please be sure to visit Tara Smith at Going to Walden for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Daybreak”

  1. Catherine: Thank you for sharing this quote and poem. I appreciate both. The starfish poem will stick with me, and I will look for further poetry by Kinnell. The primer by Orr also. Good ideas for mulling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Catherine…this is such a perfect post. I love the description and the poem illustration. I have not seen this poem before. It is so beautiful. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gorgeous poem Catherine, so visual too–I like the play of the starfish before and then after disappearing into the mud. Thanks also for sharing the differences between narrative and lyric poems–rich post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Catherine, your posts are so pithy and pleasing lately! 1) Thanks for sharing about this book and Orr’s contrast between narrative and lyrical. Makes me want to go off and sort my poems, although I think I know how they would constellate. 2) Galway Kinnell is a bit yummy, isn’t he? As Jama would say, “Takes the cake.” 3) Thanks for the video reminder that a poem becomes something different when it’s read aloud. Yesterday morning I read two Mary O poems in my service. I tried to do her justice and I think I did because many people came up to appreciate the poems and my reading. When I saw GW’s poem last night, barely awake, I did not perceive it at all as I did this morning hearing it read aloud. The sounds, the human breath in the words, make a difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Last week, I shared some gleanings from poet and teacher Gregory Orr’s book A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry, specifically his thoughts about the distinction between lyric and narrative poetry. Orr acknowledges that these two poetic forms occur along a continuum, with very few poems being purely one or the other. He also observes that while “most poetry readers and writers have shifted toward lyric, […]


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