Gregory Orr's twelfth collection of poems is one of this year's most intriguing, imaginative books of verse.
Gregory Orr’s River Inside the River is one of the most intriguing books of poetry published this year. In these pages – his twelfth collection – Orr explores the power and reach of language through three interlaced sections that create a vast, imaginative vista.
The first section, “Eden and After,” is the most compelling and memorable, and could easily stand on its own. The poems recast the creation story by starting with the provocative premise that Adam and Eve didn’t really sin, they simply chose one way of experiencing life – through words – over another. This perspective begins with the opening poem, where God thinks the earth into being, and then speaks only to boast of what He’s done.
As the narrative unfolds, God subtly stifles his creation, wanting labels for plants and animals while Adam chooses names and desperately longs to give voice to the worlds both outside and within him. In the poem “To Long,” Adam notices how beautiful the beasts and birds are:
And yet, how full
The universe –
As if there were no room
For words he ached to say.
Shouted aloud, they
The very things
He wished to celebrate.
Orr’s agile writing – confident and concise – heightens this underlying tension as Adam learns the limits of nouns, the freedom of verbs, and considers, with Eve, why their beautiful home feels increasingly confining.