Jorie Graham's collection of poems, Never, primarily addresses concern over our environment in crisis. One of the most challenging poets writing today, Graham is no easy read, but the rewards are well worth the effort. While thematically present, her concern is not exclusively the demise of natural resources and depletion of species, but the philosophical and perceptual difficulty in capturing and depicting a physical world that may be lost, or one that we humans have limited sight of and into. As she notes in "The Taken-Down God": "We wish to not be erased from the / picture. We wish to picture the erasure. The human earth and its appearance. / The human and its disappearance."
With a style that is fragmented and somewhat whirlinglanguage dips and darts and asides are takenGraham stays on point and presents an honest intellect at work, fumbling for an accurate understanding (or description) of the natural world, self-conscious about the limitations of language and perception.
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About the Author
Jorie Graham is the author of 12 collections, including The Dream of the Unified Field which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard University.
Read an Excerpt
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 a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers), a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change --
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.
I am beneath the tree. To the right the river is melting the young sun.
full of sky.
From this eternity, where we do not resemble ourselves, where
resemblance is finally
beside (as the river is) the point,
and attention can no longer change the outcome of the gaze,
the ear too is finally sated, starlings starting up ladderings of chatter,
all at once all to the left,
invisible in the pruned-back
hawthorn, heard and heard again, and yet again
differently heard, but silting
the head with inwardness and making always a
dispersing but still
coalescing opening in the listener who
cannot look at them exactly,
since they are invisible inside the greens -- though screeching-full in
syncopations of yellowest,
rivering of almost-knowables. "Gold" is too dark. "Featherwork"
too thick. When two
appear in flight, straight to the child-sized pond of
and thrash, dunk, rise, shake, rethrashing, reconfiguring through
reshufflings and resettlings the whole body of integrated
they shatter open the blue-and-tree-tip filled-up gaze of
the lawn’s two pools,
breaking and ruffling all the crisp true sky we had seen living
down in that tasseled
earth. How shall we say this happened? Something inaudible
has ceased. Has gone back round to an other side
of which this side’s access was [is] this width of sky
just-greening soil? We left the party without a word.
We did not change, but time changed us. It should be,
it seems, one or the other of us who is supposed to say -- lest
there be nothing -- here we are. It was supposed to become familiar
(this earth). It was to become "ours." Lest there be nothing?
Lest we reach down to touch our own reflection here?
Shouldn’t depth come to sight and let it in, in the end, as the form
the farewell takes: representation: dead men:
lean forward and look in: the raggedness of where the openings
are: precision of the limbs upthrusting down to hell:
the gleaming in: so blue: and that it has a bottom: even a few clouds
if you keep
attending: and something that’s an edge-of: and mind-cracks: and how the
about that: that distant life: I carry it inside me but
can plant it into soil: so that it becomes impossible
to say that anything swayed
from in to out: then back to "is this mine, or yours?": the mind
seeks danger out: it reaches in, would touch: where the subject is emptying,
morality play: preface: what there is to be thought: love:
begin with the world: let it be small enough.