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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

 

Just Before

Jorie Graham, 1950
At some point in the day, as such, there was a pool.  Of
                                                         stillness.  One bent to brush one's hair, and, lifting
                                                         again, there it was, the
opening—one glanced away from a mirror, and there, before one's glance reached the
                                                         street, it was, dilation and breath—a name called out
                                                         in another's yard—a breeze from
                                                         where—the log collapsing inward of a sudden into its
                                                         hearth—it burning further, feathery—you hear it but you don't 
                                                         look up—yet there it
                                                         bloomed—an un-
learning—all byway no birthpain—dew—sand falling onto sand—a threat
                                                         from which you shall have
                                                         no reprieve—then the
reprieve—Some felt it was freedom, or a split-second of unearthliness—but no, it was far from un-
                                                         earthly, it was full of
                                                         earth, at first casually full, for some millennia, then
despertately full—of earth—of copper mines and thick under-leaf-vein sucking in of 
                                                         light, and isinglass, and dusty heat—wood-rings
                                                         bloating their tree-cells with more
life—and grass and weed and tree intermingling in the
                                                         undersoil—& the
                                                         earth's whole body round
                                                         filled with
                                                         uninterrupted continents of
                                                         burrowing—&earthwide miles of
                                                         tunnelling by the  
mole, bark bettle, snail, spider, worm—& ants making their cross-
                                                         nationstate cloths of
                                                         soil, & planetwide the
                                                         chewing of insect upon leaf—fish-mouth on krill, 
                                                         the spinning of
coral, sponge, cocoon—this is what entered the pool of stopped thought—a chain suspended in
                                                         the air of which
                                                         one link
                                                         for just an instant
                                                         turned to thought, then time, then heavy time, then
                                                         suddenly
air—a link of air!—& there was no standing army anywhere, 
                                                         & the sleeping bodies in the doorways in all
                                                         the cities of
                                                         what was then just
                                                         planet earth
were lifted up out of their sleeping
                                                         bags, & they walked
                                                         away, & the sensation of empire blew off the link
like pollen—just like that—off it went—into thin air—& the athletes running their 
                                                         games in Delphi entered the zone in the
long oval of the arena where you run in
                                                         shadow, where the killer crowd becomes
                                                         one sizzling hiss, where, 
coming round that curve the slowness
                                                         happens, & it all goes
                                                         inaudible, & the fatigue the urgent sprint the lust
                                                         makes the you
fantastically alone, & the bees thrum the hillsides, & all the blood that has been
                                                         wasted—all of it—gathers into deep coherent veins in the
                                                         earth
                                                         and calls itself
                                                         history—& we make it make
                                                         sense—
                                                         & we are asked to call it
                                                         good.  

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
                (St. Laurent Sur Mer, June 5, 2009)


Sometimes the day
                              light winces 
                              behind you and it is
a great treasure in this case today a man on
                              a horse in calm full
                              gallop on Omaha over
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
In this blue light
     I can take you there,
snow having made me
     a world of bone
seen through to.  This
     is my house,

my section of Etruscan
     wall, my neighbor's
lemontrees, and, just below
     the lower church,
the airplane factory.
     A rooster

crows all day from mist
     outside the walls