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The Dream of the Unified Field
ISBN: 978 1 857542 25 7
Categories: 20th Century, American, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: March 1996
215 x 130 x 11 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
I dig my hands into the absolute. The surface breaks
into shingled, grassed clusters; lifts.
If I press, pick-in with fingers, pluck,
I can unfold the loam. It is tender. It is a tender
manoeuvre, hands making and unmaking promises.
Diggers, forgetters: A series of successive single instances;
Frames of reference moving;
The speed of light, down here, upthrown, in my hands:
bacteria, milky roots, pilgrimages of spores, deranged and rippling
from 'The Visible World'
Jorie Graham's poetry insists that 'the visible world' exists: but what is its existence? Beyond the merely subjective, the merely lyric, she ventures with philosophical rigour into an area 'saturated with phenomena', in Helen Vendler's phrase, a place of shifting perspectives, abrupt changes, sometimes vertiginous in their reversals, but always moving towards possible celebration.
Those who argue that poetry and science are at each other's throats will find here a poetry which brings together in tense equilibrium science, philosophy and history. This is a new kind of narrative, offering forms which are open and full of possibility. Graham's is an inclusive art which takes big risks. John Ashbery describes her 'utterance that swings with the conviction of Blake's, that one does not want to stop listening to. She is one of the finest poets writing today.'
Awards won by Jorie Graham Winner, 2017 Wallace Stevens Award for Lifetime Achievement Commended, 2017 Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
(Fast) Winner, 1996 Pulitzer Prize
(The Dream of the Unified Field) Short-listed, 2012 T S Eliot Prize (P L A C E) Short-listed, 2012 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection (P L A C E)
Praise for Jorie Graham 'Even when these poems are at their darkest and most purposefully incoherent in terms of voice and tone, there remains a trace of language's ability to seek out, transmit and make visible the impact of the world on the self for others to experience.'
'The reason that poets are addicted to poetry and they write it for a lifetime, is because a poem will permit you to go through life and have an experience you can't have by any other means.'
Jorie Graham talking to Ian McMillan on Radio 3's The Verb, 15 December 2017
'Another striking book from Jorie Graham, and one that frequently reaches fever-pitch in its frantic explosion of the lyric mode. Graham's themes in these poems - ranging through sickness, death and environmental crises - would rattle any reader, and her long lines, clamouring fragments and sprawling chorus of voices increase this effect to a dramatic extent. These are urgent, stressed and stressful poems that produce a panicked motion-sickness as you spiral through them. This is an important, desperate and, at times, frightening, book that truly captures the tone of contemporary times.'
The Poetry School Books of the Year 2017
'In FAST, [Graham's] subject is mortality - her own (she was diagnosed with cancer five years ago), her parents', that of intellect and culture (in dementia, in digital overwhelm), that of the planet. It is a collection of sensual poems so urgent that, by the end, they have abandoned traditional beginnings and are physically bunched up on the right-hand side of the page. And through it all, an unwavering, serious belief in the power of poetry, a repeatedly inhabited rejection of Auden's assertion that poetry makes nothing happen.'
'Fast might immerse us in monstrous acts of environmental and political violence, our obsession with progress, money, and our own individualistic, virtual worlds, but what still succeeds is the wish to live on. Perhaps if we were to listen to that wish we might, amongst all the acceleration, stop and think again.'
- The London Magazine
'We should be grateful to Jorie Graham for her own heroics of perception, even if they show up our ordinary insight. If we can't see, with Graham, "the spots where the birds must eventually land", at least we know now where we should be looking.'
Gwyneth Lewis, Times Literary Supplement. 'Graham's best book in at least a decade.'
Publishers Weekly 'The poems in Jorie Graham's Sea Change might look unapproachable but they are models of clarity and purity.'
Nicola Smyth, 'Books of the Year', the Independent, 28 December 2008
'One of the finest poets writing today.'
'She is among the most important poets in North American literature today.'
Peyton Brien, University of Toronto, 1995
'Jorie Graham is a poet of staggering intelligence.'
'There is a buoyancy in Graham's poetry, a freshness of vision which is rare in contemporary poetry.'
Roger Caldwell, Times Literary Supplement, 27th June 2003
'After each new book by Graham, I wonder what she will do next. Her courage in remaking her style over the years is exemplary... to read under Graham's powerful impetus is to have one's consciousness, like molten glass, pulled into unforeseen - and sometimes almost unbearable - shapes.'
Helen Vendler, London Review of Books, 23rd January 2003
'...one of our most highly imaginative and innovative poets. Her speculative and sensual poetry echoes an aesthetic and cultural past but is, truly, like nothing we've seen before.'
David St. John, The Los Angeles Times, 1996
'There are erotic poems, elegiac poems, and there are dauntingly difficult, allusive and even impenetrable poems. Throughout there is a powerful, engaging intelligence and an affirming lyric grace.'
Stephen Matterson on The Errancy, in Poetry Ireland Review, vol. 62
'Like all good poets, she illuminates moments, but she is like no one else, neither in her rhythms, nor in her insistence on opening up, scrutinizing, and even reversing our experience of time and space within these moments.'
Stephen Burt, Times Literary Supplement, 17th May 1996
'Graham shows us a future direction in American poetry, and that future is a welcome place.'
The Harvard Review
'A mesmerising American voice; one wants to hear its continuation.'
Helen Vendler, The New Yorker
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