Errancy

Jorie Graham, Author
Jorie Graham, Author Ecco $22 (0p) ISBN 978-0-88001-528-8
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-88001-529-5
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-1-85754-356-8
Ebook - 128 pages - 978-0-06-210585-1
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Few poets address the predicament of the postmodern soul as rigorously or as intelligently as Graham. Without a dominant (or at least coherently integrated) set of cultural beliefs to unpack, rebel against or discard, Graham is forced into ""errancy,"" a condition that finds her wandering ""the path without the crumbs"" as she attempts to fashion a language capable of speaking truth amid ""the cadaverous swallowings of the dream of reason gone."" It is a complicated project that has evolved over five previous volumes (culled in the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Dream of the Unified Field, 1995) and requires an often oblique approach. Substituting cascading syntax for worn-out metaphors, Graham piles phrase upon phrase, describing not so much our world but our turns of mind as we proceed without a theory of what we're doing. ""The Guardian Angel of Not Feeling"" concludes: ""bring hand to lip--there--do it again, again,/ blazon the mouth, rub in, exaggerate--/ the little halo forms, around the teeth,/ the mirror on that wall shows you the thing,/ furious, votive--/ oh look, the tiny heart/ mouthing and mouthing its crisp inaudible black zeros out."" This and other poems named for guardian angels--e.g., ""The Guardian Angel of Point-of-View,"" ""The Guardian Angel of Private Life""--reclaim a viable space for private experience from a world obsessed with spectacle. The ""I,"" which has all but disappeared from experimental poetry, resurfaces in nearly all of these 38 poems but cannot be fully identified with their speaker, becoming ""merely a specimen/ incomplete as such, overendowed,"" and not an occasion for religious or personal reflection. ""An icy thing, even in its fluency,"" this masterful collection takes risks in naming ""the small hole inside I'm supposed to love"" and coldly, bleakly and dazzlingly succeeds. (July)
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