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April 3, 2008 The New Museum, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Jorie Graham was born in New York City on May 9, 1950, the daughter of a journalist and a sculptor. She was raised in Rome, Italy and educated in French schools. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris before attending New York University as an undergraduate, where she studied filmmaking. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa.

Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Place: New Poems (Ecco, 2012); Sea Change (Ecco, 2008), Never (2002), Swarm (2000), and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

About her work, James Longenbach wrote in the New York Times: "For 30 years Jorie Graham has engaged the whole human contraption — intellectual, global, domestic, apocalyptic — rather than the narrow emotional slice of it most often reserved for poems. She thinks of the poet not as a recorder but as a constructor of experience. Like Rilke or Yeats, she imagines the hermetic poet as a public figure, someone who addresses the most urgent philosophical and political issues of the time simply by writing poems."

Graham has also edited two anthologies, Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language (1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990.

Her many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

She has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.


Selected Bibliography

Place: New Poems (Ecco, 2012)
Sea Change (2008)
Never (2002)
Swarm (2000)
The Errancy (1997)
The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 (Ecco, 1995)
Materialism (1993)
Region of Unlikeness (1991)
The End of Beauty (Ecco, 1987)
Erosion (1983)
Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts (Princeton University Press, 1980)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Embodies

Jorie Graham, 1950
Deep autumn & the mistake occurs, the plum tree blossoms, twelve
                                                         blossoms on three different
branches, which for us, personally, means none this coming spring or perhaps none on
                                                         just those branches on which
                                                         just now
lands, suddenly, a grey-gold migratory bird—still here?—crisping, 
                                                         multiplying the wrong
                                                         air, shifting branches with small
hops, then stilling—very still—breathing into this oxygen which also pockets my
                                                         looking hard, just
                                                         that, takes it in, also my
                                                         thinking which I try to seal off, 
my humanity, I was not a mistake is what my humanity thinks, I cannot
                                                         go somewhere
else than this body, the afterwards of each of these instants is just
                                                         another instant, breathe, breathe, 
my cells reach out, I multiply on the face of
                                                         the earth, on the
mud—I can see my prints on the sweet bluish mud—where I was just
                                                         standing and reaching to see if
those really were blossoms, I thought perhaps paper
                                                         from wind, & the sadness in
me is that of forced parting, as when I loved a personal
                                                         love, which now seems unthinkable, & I look at 
the gate, how open it is, 
                                                         in it the very fact of God as
invention seems to sit, fast, as in its saddle, so comfortable—& where
                                                         does the road out of it
go—& are those torn wires hanging from the limbs—& the voice I heard once after I passed
                                                         what I thought was a sleeping
man, the curse muttered out, & the cage after they have let
                                                         the creatures
out, they are elsewhere, in one of the other rings, the ring with the empty cage is
                                                         gleaming, the cage is
to be looked at, grieving, for nothing, your pilgrimage ends here, 
                                                         we are islands, we
                                                         should beget nothing &
what am I to do with my imagination—& the person in me trembles—& there is still
                                                         innocence, it is starting up somewhere
even now, and the strange swelling of the so-called Milky Way, and the sound of the
                                                         wings of the bird as it lifts off
suddenly, & how it is going somewhere precise, & that precision, & how I no longer
                                                         can say for sure that it
knows nothing, flaming, razory, the feathered serpent I saw as a child, of stone, &
                                                         how it stares back at me
from the height of its pyramid, & the blood flowing from the sacrifice, & the oracles
                                                         dragging hooks through the hearts in
                                                         order to say
what is coming, what is true, & all the blood, millennia, drained to stave off
                                                         the future, stave off, 
& the armies on the far plains, the gleam off their armor now in this bird's
                                                         eye, as it flies towards me
then over, & the sound of the thousands of men assembled at
                                                         all cost now
the sound of the bird lifting, thick, rustling where it flies over—only see, it is
                                                         a hawk after all, I had not seen
clearly, it has gone to hunt in the next field, & the chlorophyll is
                                                         coursing, & the sun is
sucked in, & the chief priest walks away now where what remains of
                                                         the body is left
as is customary for the local birds.  

From Sea Change by Jorie Graham, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2008 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Sea Change by Jorie Graham, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2008 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham was born in New York City in 1950, the daughter

by this poet

poem
Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
                                                infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves
poem
Sunbreak.  The sky opens its magazine.  If you look hard
                                                         it is a process of falling
                                                         and squinting—& you are in-
terrupted again and again by change, & crouchings out there
poem
To bring back a time and place.
A feeling. As in "we are all in this
together." Or "the United States and her allies

fought for Freedom." To bring back.
The experience of killing and getting killed.
Get missed. Get hit. Sun—is it with us. Holiday,

are you with us on this beach today.
Hemisphere of one, my soul