Trisha Orr

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portfolio of paintings with poems by Gregory Orr, 2000

Keeping Time: Lyric Fusions in the Paintings of Trisha Orr and the Poems of Gregory Orr

In this ravishing collaboration, notions of Paradise are rivaled and revised by the eye's desire. Pre-lapsarian containment and wholeness col­lide with the shatteringly somatic and terrifyingly broken beauty of the fallen world we must inhabit; the result is a lyricism both bodily ("Pleasure space crammed/ with flowers, fountains,/ and cool shade—/ all the joys/ earth affords" in "Paradise Corner") and mysterious ("One step beyond/ intensity—/ what world is that?" in "Too Bright"). In the painting "This Dazzling," a mythical village of Edenic bowls and vases holds and refracts through prismatic water a sumptuously chaotic, steeply pitched terrain of striped, patterned, and textured kimonos, quilts, silks, laces. Cast in scroll-like verticality from a slightly elevated god- or bird's-eye point-of-view, the painting reveals its worlds through a spidery, helixical scrim of bent stems and heavy, pendant blos­soms. The vivid, temporal forays of these paths and houses are cut off from linear progression, creating instead an atemporal, unhierarchical realm not unlike the narrative fusions of Giotto or Sassetta, in which past, present, and future are co-present and seem to turn into one another everywhere. Midway up the canvas, on a snowy precipice of lace, a warrior/pil­grim perches on the inner, curved and lens-thin border of Paradise, gaz­ing open-eyed at the "dazzling labyrinth" below and above. Is he fleeing? banished? returning, backwards? A blood-red river of kimono surges beside his fragile sanctuary, alive with piercing, open, peacock-feather eyes that mimic and quote his own terror—while, in the lushly midnight-blue context above, an oblivious flock of fabric cranes departs in white, amazed rush of fanned wings. Bravely confronting and transforming human time, these poems and paintings create a lyric grammar, a condition simultaneously domestic and exotic, lost and redeemed, sated and stricken. Their vertically addi­tive, layered progressions defy the consecutive, and instead create out of our mortal predicament a daring, urgent, fleeting unity—a kind of unmediated dream speech. In "Too Bright," Gregory Orr asks: "Light shining/ at the furthest rim/ of the visible—/ Does it rise/ or fall there?/ Is that where/ it lives, or dies?" The intrepid surrender and Keatsian "negative capability" of such questions shimmer at the crux of this stun­ning conspiracy of paint and language.

—Lisa Russ Spaar

Page 72

Paradise Corner
Persian word meaning "walled garden"
Pleasure space crammed
with flowers, fountains,
and cool shade-
all the joys
earth affords
hidden behind high walls.
Crack, lightning zap
I press my eye against—
glimpse of paradise
that makes me long for more.

This Dazzling Was it only
a moment ago
I was lifted up?
Slipped free
of this shroud
that veils my eyes
and weights my limbs?
And saw below me
the pattern, clear at
last: dazzling

Blue Peninsula Lightning crack
of ravish-
to rip the sky
then vanish.
I raise-
shredded blue
dazed battlements.

Too Bright One step beyond
what world is that?
Light shining
at the furthest rim
of the visible-
Does it rise
or fall there?
Is that where
it lives, or dies?

Schoolroom of the Sky Fullness-the overmuch-
ripe teetering
on the brink
of rot.
so bright
eyes squeezed tight
can't shut it out.
Again and again
the edge is struck-
cymbal that shivers
with the overflow of sight.

Floating World

One and by one
we come to this place.
And those with companions
are also alone.

Sky and earth
and all the world
before us.

It's possible
to imagine the tree,
standing by itself.

But also the flowers-
how the weight
of so much being
bows them down.


Yes Burden and blessing-
two blossoms
on the same branch.

To be so lost
in this radiant wilderness.

Zip Zap

The lightning stroke-
a rainbow bolt—
tlore right through you
and is already
speeding past the stars.

All this you see-
dance of dazzle
and debris-is aftermath.