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The Dream of the Unified Field
Categories: 20th Century, American, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (220 pages)
(Pub. Mar 1996)
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 Short-listed, 2020 The Neustadt International Prize for Literature
(Fast) Winner, 2018 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry (Fast) Winner, 2012 Forward Prize for Best Collection (PLACE) 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 () Short-listed, 2012 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection ()
Praise for Jorie Graham 'Attempting to comment briefly on this visionary commotion is like trying to capture thunder and lightning in a bottle... This is a world beyond humanity, beyond nature, beyond culture, and yet amid the ruins there is the undeniable triumph and power of poetic utterance'
Rachel Hadas, Times Literary Supplement
'From its opening page until its final lines, Graham''s 15th collection of poetry has the heightened urgency of a young writer's debut. True to its title, it hurtles forward. Poems pour forth, frothing and pooling and threatening, at times, to overflow their banks...Runaway feels as though it has been written for right now, especially as we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, but also for a target audience that might emerge 100 years on...'
Jeff Gordinier, New York Times
'Sweeping lines and fractured phrases, ampersands and italics, lines unexpectedly justified right: all of these wake us up to 'the freshness of what's / there.'
Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
'Runaway, Jorie Graham's expansive new book, insistently tunes us to the human urgency for wholeness, for the meanings of embodiment in a time when some of us/are murdered, and some of have mouths that keep saying yes.'
Forrest Gander, New York Times
'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
'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
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