poem index

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

 

Sundown

Jorie Graham, 1950
                (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 my
                              left shoulder coming on
                              fast but
calm not audible to me at all until I turned back my
                              head for no
                              reason as if what lies behind
                              one had whispered
what can I do for you today and I had just
                              turned to
                              answer and the answer to my
answer flooded from the front with the late sun he/they
                              were driving into—gleaming—
                              wet chest and upraised knees and
light-struck hooves and thrust-out even breathing of the great
                              beast—from just behind me,
                              passing me—the rider looking straight
                              ahead and yet
smiling without looking at me as I smiled as we
                              both smiled for the young
                              animal, my feet in the
breaking wave-edge, his hooves returning, as they begin to pass
                              by,
                              to the edge of the furling
                              break, each tossed-up flake of
                              ocean offered into the reddish
luminosity—sparks—as they made their way,
                              boring through to clear out
                              life, a place where no one
                              again is suddenly 
killed—regardless of the "cause"—no one—just this
                              galloping forward with
                              force through the low waves, seagulls
                              scattering all round, their
screeching and mewing rising like more bits of red foam, the
                              horse's hooves now suddenly
                              louder as it goes
                              by and its prints on
wet sand deep and immediately filled by thousands of
                              sandfleas thrilled to the
declivities in succession in the newly
                              released beach—just
                              at the right
                              moment for some
microscopic life to rise up through these
                              cups in the hard upslant
                              retreating ocean is
revealing, sandfleas finding them just as light does,
                              carving them out with
                              shadow, and glow on each
                              ridge, and
water oozing up through the innermost cut of the
                              hoofsteps,
and when I shut my eyes now I am not like a blind person
                              walking towards the lowering sun,
the water loud at my right,
                              but like a seeing person
with her eyes shut
                              putting her feet down
                              one at a time
                              on the earth.

Copyright © 2011 by Jorie Graham. Used with permission of the author. Previously published in The New Yorker.

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham

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

by this poet

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
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