Swarm by Jorie Graham

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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.


About Jorie Graham

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Jorie Graham is the author of 12 collections, including The Dream of the Unified Field which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard University.
Published November 3, 1999 by Ecco. 128 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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(God's laughter)/ In this dance the people do not move."" The flap copy and end notes together indicate that the collection is to be read as a book-length sequence of poems, one which calls on Eurydice, Calypso, Daphne and Eve as masks through which the poet again questions the possibility of mor...

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Boston Review

Before we come to this imperative, and certainly before we recognize in it the sheen of our first disobedience’s fruit (and in that sheen a reflection of ourselves, or of Graham’s self?), we are informed--then induced to feel formally--that readerly ease is not a priority in this first ...

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