The Dream of the Unified Field

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The award-winning poet, Jorie Graham, has published five remarkable poetry collections, including HYBRIDS OF PLANTS AND GHOSTS (1980), EROSION (1983), THE END OF BEAUTY (1987), REGION OF UNLIKENESS (1991), and MATERIALISM (1993). For THE DREAM OF THE UNIFIED FIELD, another award-winning collection, Graham has selected at least ten poems from each of her previous collections. Through this generous selection, the poet has been able to demonstrate how she has grown and evolved. Graham generally writes complex poems that speak both to the personal and the universal. She does not shy away from experimentation. While it can be argued that Graham has a tendency to obscure or muddle her focus on occasion, her best poems speak directly to the attentive reader. In the poems from HYBRIDS OF PLANTS AND GHOSTS, Graham dissects mortality with an almost reckless abandon. She is both difficult and brave, philosophical and mundane. Graham approaches topics from many different angles, and there are no simple solutions. This is not poetry for the lazy or faint-at-heart.

In the poems from EROSION, Graham is more reflective, almost allusive. Both personal and collective history intersect in some of her most sophisticated poems. The poems from THE END OF BEAUTY are more stylized. Graham inserts mythical or biblical characters in such poems as “Self- Portrait as the Gesture Between Them” (Adam and Eve), “Orpheus and Eurydice,” and “Self-Portrait as Apollo and Daphne.” Graham has continued to expand her philosophical themes in the poems from REGION OF UNLIKENESS and MATERIALISM. Her poetry needs to be read and re-read, pondered and scrutinized. Graham demands a great deal from her readers, but the rewards for the attentive readers are enormous. THE DREAM OF THE UNIFIED FIELD, which won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, is a wonderful introduction into what Graham has done as a contemporary poet, and serves as a window into what amazing work can be expected from her in the future.