Dream of the Unified Field

Jorie Graham, Author
Jorie Graham, Author Ecco $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-88001-438-0
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
Graham's complex, faceted poems glint powerfully with compressed energy and suggest another meaning for the term atmospheric pressure. Her rendering of experience yields a dense, layered vision in which simplicity is rarely found and conclusions are likely to be double-edged. In ``Imperialism,'' concerned with shadows and a difficult relationship, she recalls being taken to Calcutta as a child where, ``to know the world,'' she must observe the funeral pyres and later step into the Ganges (``utensils and genitalia and incandescent linens--(I was nine)--''). Elsewhere a photo of a Holocaust atrocity takes on, in its description and its context, a necessary semblance of beauty: ""`I`ll give ten thousand dollars to the man/ who proves the holocaust really/ occurred,'"" she quotes. Themes and imagery recur: birds, angels, wings, madness; hands at work, passions political and personal. Graham's keen interest in paintings yields a continual shifting of the thin border between art and life. In ``The Phase After History,'' two birds trapped inside a house--which suggests self-consciousness or a page--fly at the windows seeking escape, while on one floor a man takes up a knife to slice off his face. Too compact for a single reading, this selection from previous collections provides several ``self portraits'' that help give her thought grounding. This volume is perfectly orchestrated, each poem extending the poem before it. (Nov.)
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