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Sea Change: Poems Paperback – March 31, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Graham’s oracular books run wide to accommodate her long lines, which span the planetary and the personal, deep time and the blink of a moment. Equally attentive to the thrumming world around us and the answering whir of consciousness within, Graham turns ontological in the midst of sensuous descriptions, then forthrightly confronts accelerating, plain-as-day, dire changes in the seas, the soils, and the weather. Dreams glide by like clouds, birds busy themselves, rain falls, a woman showers, temperatures rise, and rivers evaporate. Graham envisions the planet’s countless tiny beings burrowing, tunneling, and chewing, while humankind attempts to impose order on the tumult of creation, making art and armies and tombs. Her poetic persona watches life through a window, a stance emblematic of our limited perception, our fantasy of apartness and safety. In fire-breathing poems of testimony and surrender, Graham opens herself to beauty and loss. “The permanent is ebbing,” she writes, “the new Age of Extinctions is / now.” The future may not be ours. A bracing, valiant, and sublime collection. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Original edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061537187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061537189
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jorie Graham is the author of eleven collections of poetry, including The Dream of the Unified Field, which won the Pulitzer Prize. She divides her time between western France and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches at Harvard University. Graham is the first woman to hold the Boylston professorship in the Department of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard, a chair with an illustrious lineage dating back to John Quincy Adams. She was the unanimous choice of a special interdepartmental search committee formed to replace Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, who held the position previously.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bookbestcrtitic on January 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was prompted to read Jorie Graham's poetry because she has been championed by Helen Vendler for so long, and so passionately. I am someone who has read and loved poetry for almost 50 years, and I have been inspired by the continuous reinvention of the form which time inevitably brings to all the arts. Which is why I was somewhat shockingly underwhelmed by Sea Change. But I'm not one to give up easily, and I went back and read the last three of her books, and in each I sensed the same "look-at-me" pose behind the poems: which is to say, look more at the person who wrote the poem (and attach whatever name you like) than at the poem that was written.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whereas the pleasures of The Errancy and Never are both myriad and readily apparent, this book's charms are a little more slippery. Beginning with its much-discussed form (alternating left-justified long lines with center-justified short ones) making for a sometimes-maddening read, Sea Change makes some very obvious efforts to differentiate itself from previous Graham books. Gone are the endlessly enfolding and pulsing parenthetical musings that exhausted some of Never's longer works. Also gone are any variation in form. The line positions described above are the only form present. That said, the poems themselves cover a typically broad range of movement. I hesitate to say "subjects" because I feel that Graham often operates on the plane of not-knowing, where to posit a singular is to be distracted by nature's awe.

The poems here address the world at crisis. Sometimes, as better readers than I have pointed out, they seem to address directly a future populace, one unaware of the state of emergency that we found ourselves in so many years back (into our present). And so "presence" itself becomes a theme, as it does for most of Graham's post-Erosion work. "I cannot look a the world hard enough," Graham has said in a recent interview. Certainly, there are gorgeous lyrics about nature's susceptibility to pressure, or even observance. Graham seems perfectly content to describe a world that shies at the presence of a viewer. Sight is no longer true enough; thought no longer ample. "Sea Change," "This," "Full Fathom, "Positive Feedback Loop," "Undated Lullaby" and "Root End" all play thrillingly with the state of the natural world at the cusp of irreversible change in the presence of a speaker who can't quite capture it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am finding her work exhilarating. A bit like listening to John Coltrane. 'Sheets of sound' has become sheets of voice. Of course you don't understand it all, or even like it all, but you feel better, more alive for having her voices move through you. I could also appreciate that for some people, her work is exasperating, opaque and overblown. Poetry is heightened subjectivity, so it's a matter of taste. But I'd recommend dipping in to experience a mature modernist at her work.
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