- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Ecco (January 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0880014768
- ISBN-13: 978-0880014762
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dream Of The Unified Field Paperback – January 1, 1997
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"One of the best, and most intelligent, poets in the language.... She is like no oneelse, neither in her rhythms nor in her insistence on opening up, scrutinizing, andeven reversing our experience of time and space." -- Times Literary Supplement
"This collection, read beginning to end, read as a kind of novel, as a roman, isbreathtakingly clear, crystalline, and compelling.... Those of us who knew best themore recent large and complex Graham poems are now invited to reread the earlier,and to see in them, perhaps for the first time, their full complexities andcompulsions." -- Boston Review
... among the most sensuously embodied and imaginative writing we have ... -- The New York Times Book Review, Peter Sacks
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.
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I love Jorie Graham's early work, the wunderkind poems of the seventies that established her as a real force in the world of poetry. Good, solid imagist stuff that tells its tale and gets out:
its path of body in the grass go
only to reappear a little
black knothead up, eyes on
("I Watched a Snake")
A book like this, on the other hand, that goes from the very beginnings of her career to the most recent stuff she'd done at the time shows the journey from that exciting young poet to someone who's gone so far off the rails that one's not terribly sure what to do with her stuff any more. First, the showing stopped and the telling started. Then the experiments (I assume they're experiments) in repetition began. Then came the leaving out of words, or the substitutions of "x" for various nouns. The end result is the long, rambling, boring pieces that make up the latter half of this book.
"Consisting of fountains, yes, but invisible, no?
And of what we spoke of in the dead of _________ once long ago.
And of long ago.
And of the fountains too, no?..."
(note, as well, these are the only lines in the poem that rhyme.)
Instead of this, I'd suggest picking up the first two books material from this compilation is taken from (Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts and Erosion), which are both wonderful. As for the rest... well, if the excerpt above didn't drive you nuts, go from there. **
She is not afraid to tackle big themes, metaphysical and epistemological. She doesn't hide the fact that she has a sharp, fiercely intelligent mind. But it's not just mere verbal pyrotechnics. She lets her knowledge surface through everyday events observed through her keen eyes, filtered through her sensations. In "Reading Plato", for example, her vision of the platonic community becomes summoned magically, and almost improbably through the sight of men in early morning... fishing at the lake, casting bait into the water, and the horse hair that's attached to it. In other poems, she relates a spiritual surge of St. Theresa to a breakdancer dancing on the street, electricity that seems to run through the dancers bones and limbs.
These and many others are startling observations which lead not to easy, pat conclusions and denouements, but to further philosophical inquiries. No other poet I've read recently has drawn out so much from such minute, exacting observations. A work of a genius.
and descends (travels sideways and expands like interstellar gas)
into the full-throttle Graham of the middle period,
huge gusts of philosophy and sight,
and of course her ever-evolving attempts to cut into cross-sections of the silences air holds and which we bend to try to understand.
This being said, Graham is NOT a poet to be understood in the full sense. Though not as much like Ashbery's word collages as some people like to claim (at least I don't think), her writing certainly benefits from repeated readings. I'm still tramping through the title poem, and have only very recently come to appreciate her next whole (non-collective) book, The Errancy, as a full thing, almost incapable of being dissected into "selections from."
I'm anxious to see what Ecco has in store for her Selected II, which with the recent release of Overlord: Poems, must be coming soon.
In the meantime I will continue to enjoy the eyes of
the most visual poet I've ever seen.
Also, and as a side note, I am very surprised by the exclusion of the poem "To a Friend Going Blind," from Erosion. It's one of her absolute best.
This book works in perfect concordance with the next book she wrote, The Errancy, my favorite of her single volumes.