The Dream of the Unified Field Themes
by Jorie Graham

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Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Finding meaning in existence, finding patterns in experience, connecting in a world that has, for the most part, lost its religious and philosophical underpinning lies at the core of “The Dream of the Unified Field.” Graham brings together the New World and the Old, America and Europe, innocence and experience, nature and civilization. She does so in a way that makes sense, but in a way that also seems deliberately to challenge readers to accept the connections, urges them to doubt the logic. As Graham moves from image to image, the reader must make a leap of faith, holding each in mind until, finally, at the end they coalesce into one image of desire, of longing—to possess, to protect, to comprehend, to save. Even the end is not the end, however. It is actually the beginning, with the gleam of gold luring the reader even as it lured Columbus and his followers to ever-present possibility, to the potential that is being alive. That the poem does not circle back on itself, that it does not return to the sight of the child in the black leotard but ends instead with the “very black Indian” girl with the “little piece of/ gold on her nose” brings the poem back to the title instead, to the “dream” that the unified field exists.