Trish: The Creatrix

As feminists have duly noted, the archetypal figure Psyche in Keats’ Odal Cycle is not exactly empowered. She provides fodder for Keats to create a convincing imaginative vista from; her overt sexuality, her beauty and vulnerability create a space for her to unite the Heaven and Earth. She is a goddess who can descend to earthly tactility and palpability. As she unites all realms, Keats’ reaction in text is intellectually, emotionally, and physically satisfying for him; but we are never shown whether that sense of satisfaction is shared by Psyche. We may choose to believe that Psyche, being a goddess, is loftily sublime over the kind of impulses which create the congeries of Keats’ reaction to her; or it may be that Keats wishes us to believe that Psyche mirrors him precisely, as a tangent (also) to Echo as a mythological figure. If feminists disrespect Keats’ version of Romanticism, it is because, by not granting Psyche a voice, he exudes a sense of supercilious condescension to her/ in her direction. Perhaps. But this is not an issue in Trish: A Romance: Trish is introduced to us, in the poem’s opening sequence, as having painted a masterpiece called The Vessel, which we see hanging in a prominent public position. The Vessel is an imaginative vista opened by Trish herself; we perceive her, instantly, as both having a voice and carrying the clout to make it publicly heard. More than that: she is a creative artist of some stature; we might call her, in the adumbrating of Trish mythology, a Creatrix. If the Creatrix, or any Creatrix figure, is to take her place as a Romantic archetype next to Psyche, and other passive Muses, the first recognition of how this may happen is the recognition that the Creatrix has a will-to-power which is uniquely her own. She is able to unite the intellectual, emotional, and physical compartments of her consciousness, by imposing her imaginative will on the world. Trish’s Philadelphia is specifically a stage on which she can act out the complex dynamics of her will’s complications, intricacies, and idiosyncrasies.

So, if Trish becomes a Creatrix, we may see her as an empowered version of Psyche. She is post-Odal; sexualized, a figure of myth, vulnerable, down in the dirt, but an active, passionate player in the world nonetheless. There is no room for a Creatrix in the Odal Cycle; Keats needs to keep Psyche in place, and his starry-eyed Romanticism and spontaneous overflows of powerful feeling center on a version of the feminine which poses no threats to Keats’ masculinity. Keats, with Psyche, can afford to be androgynous; sex with her can be “sweet,” “tender,” and “quiet”; because she, as an archetype, cannot speak back to him. Trish is a back-talker and a tell-it-like-it-is straight shooter, who assumes parity (or superiority) to the males of the species, always. Trish, being self-made, will not brook interference, either with her art or what happens in her boudoir; and the protagonist of Trish accepts this, even as it lands him in deep water when he falls head over heels in love with her. The Creatrix is involved in complex intimacies:

There was a period in which we could
not talk to each other. I either
had to have her totally or not
at all. There would be no grey
for us. Was this karma for the
manner in which I treated
Lisa? Closing shift: Roger came
to pick up Trish. I heaved against
the glass doors before the manager
came to let us out. Romantic poems
were being written, informed by a
kind of desperation. I read Donne
for a Penn class and extrapolated

his stance (metaphysics abridging
Romanticism) and remembered
that first night, in which Trish
and I read “The Ecstasy” to each
other. Now, she horded her body
where I could not see. I have my
own conceits, I thought to myself,
walking home from Penn in rain.
Spring rains; Trish returns. She
seems chastened. There is a part
of her that needs me. It is a part
of her that she rebels against, so
that her manner towards me takes
the form of an interior war made exterior.

The complexity of Trish’s character is involved with trying to balance a creative and personal life; how to be impersonal, in major high art consonant ways, and personal simultaneously. Such is the way of the Creatrix; an archetypal figure who achieves states of balances by imposing her creative will on the cosmos. That feature of Aughts Philadelphia: a shared supposition among creative participants that women have as loud a voice as men, and the ability to make these voices heard on high public levels: is one that Trish goes out of its way to reinforce as more than mere myth. So it was. That’s why, at the end of the day, feminists should have reason to be satisfied both with Trish and with Aughts Philadelphia: the arrival in the world of several formidable Creatrixes coincided with so little resistance to their status as powerful presences that sexism in Aughts Philly was a no-go. You either (it was said) get hip to the girls, or you go. Our Romanticism, which was also a kind of Transcendentalism against mundane reality, was a collective embrace of complexity, as well as a sustained attempt to create a shared imaginative vista, all through the Philadelphia and West Philadelphia monuments, houses, bars, galleries, coffee shops, and the rest. What we created has many things in common with the imaginative vista opened by Keats’ Odes— a sense of cognitive enchantment, and a recognition of the mind’s capacity both to discern enchantment and then to re-create, in imaginative ways, what we have discerned— even as what a Creatrix is takes the Odal Vision, Odal Cycle, and Odal Stage, and utterly transforms it into a realm in which women, as well as men, can express how their own personal version of enchantment descended upon them, why, and where the road goes as it winds.