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Sea Change


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About the Author

Jorie Graham is the author of twelve collections of poetry, including The Dream of the Unified Field, which won the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches at Harvard University. The recipient of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer, the Forward Prize and the International Nonino Prize, Graham's work is widely translated.


Graham's 11th collection contains what might be her most urgent and impassioned writing to date. These 19 poems continue Overlord's (2005) meditation on current political and social crises, but the relative composure and straightforwardness of that volume has given way to panic, breathlessness, vertigo and fracture: "life disturbing life, & it/ fussing all over us, like a confinement gone/ insane, blurring the feeling of/ the state of / being." Humankind's degradation of the environment and itself during wartime are Graham's primary concerns, with the title referring specifically to the way in which an apparently small shift--an undercurrent's "warming by 1 degree"--will bring forth ruin: "the in - / dispensable / plankton is forced north now, & yet further north,/ spawning too late for the cod larvae hatch, such/ that the hatch will not survive, nor the/ species in the end." Here, the interconnectedness of all life isn't just a spiritual commonplace, it is grounds for a call to action, and one that Graham--a poet of rare responsiveness to the natural world and a thinker of great ethical responsibility--is uniquely qualified to make. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Graham's 12th collection of poetry can be daunting. A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Harvard professor, Graham fuses the philosophical and the colloquial with the surreal in a style characterized by lengthy sentences-some containing nearly 400 words. Arranging fragments, clauses, and prepositional phrases, these long-lined, collagelike poems often end with a striking final image, as Graham meditates breathlessly on everything from nature to politics to the act of imagining. The result is a very literary language poetry-there are echoes of W.H. Auden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Marianne Moore, among others. Like Auden, whose "Musee des Beaux Arts," is none too subtly referenced here, Graham looks at the bleak side of life. Like Hopkins, she coins words such as "lightshafts" and combines words, as in "leaf-glittering, shadow-mad," to produce a metaphor-driven stream-of-consciousness effect. Like Moore, Graham seems fond of lists, especially of vivid nouns; ultimately, she presents what Moore described as "the raw material of poetry" as opposed to the poem itself. Recommended for academic libraries only.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Stunning... Forthright, compassionate and ironic, Graham has crafted poems of lyrical steeliness and cauterizing beauty... Graham writes with breathtaking precision."--Booklist (starred review)
"Here, the interconnectedness of all life isn't just a spiritual commonplace, it is grounds for a call to action, and one that Graham - a poet of rare responsiveness to the natural world and a thinker of great ethical responsibility - is uniquely qualified to make."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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