by Jorie Graham

Hardcover(1 ED)

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With Swarm, her first new collection since The Errancy, Pulitzer Prize-winner Jorie Graham has given us a book-length sequence of poems stunning in its sober encounter with destiny, eros, and law. The narrator, at times almost vertigo-ridden by the problem of who is addressed-whom there still is to address-negotiates passionately with those powers human beings feel themselves to be "underneath": God, matter, law, custom, the force of love.

To "swarm" is to leave an originating organism'a hive, a home country, a stable sense of one's body, a stable hierarchy of values — in an attempt, by coming apart, to found a new form that will hold. The Roman Empire, its distillation in the Forum's remains, the Romantic imagination of that buried past ("underneath"), as well as the collapse of the erotic border between lovers' bodies, are persistent metaphors for the destabilization and reformation of the idea and sensation of personhood.

The "first" person and "enjambment" are characters in this book, as are the fragment, the gap, the sentence. And everywhere lovers seek to find the borders that must break as well as those that must at all cost hold. Clytemnestra await-ing Agamemnon, Calypso veiling Ulysses, Daphne accepting Apollo — a variety of mythological characters reappear here, ea-ger to plead their stories into sense, desper-ate for some insight into the buried justice of natural law.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780880016957
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/03/1999
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.25(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

from The Reformation Journal

The wisdom I have heretofore trusted was cowardice, the leaper.

I am not lying. There is no lying in me,

I surrender myself like the sinking ship,

a burning wreck from which the depths will get theirs when the heights have gotten theirs.

My throat is an open grave. I hide my face.

I have reduced all to lower case.

I have crossed out passages.

I have severely trimmed and cleared.

Locations are omitted.

Uncertain readings are inserted silently.

Abbreviations silently expanded.

A "he" referring to God may be capitalized or not.

(is crying now)          show me

is crying now            (what's wrong)

in a strange tree    of atoms    of

too few            more         no wonder

Give me the glassy ripeness

Give me the glassy ripeness in failure

Give me the atom laying its question at the bottom of nature

Send word                                    Clear fields

Make formal event                                 Walk

                                        Turn back

Reduce all to lower case        Have reduced all

Cross out passages             Have inserted silently

is there a name for?

glassy ripeness

in failure

born and raised

and you?

(go back)                        (need more)

having lived it               leaves it possible

fear    lamentation    shame    ruin    believe    me

explain      given to

explain      born of

Absence isodious                        to God

I'm asking

Unseen unseen                      the treasure unperceived

Unless you compare            the treasure may be lost

Oh my beloved                    I'm asking

More atoms, more days, the noise of the sparrows, of the universals

Yet colder here now than in

the atom still there at the bottom of nature

that we be founded on infinite smallness

which occasions incorruption or immortality"

(incorruption because already as little as it can be)

(escape square, wasted square, safety square, hopeless square)

"to all except anguish the mind soon adjusts"

have reduced, have trimmed, have cleared, have omitted

have      abbreviations      silently      expanded

to what               avail

explain       asks to be followed

explain       remains to be seen


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