Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jorie Graham

I have been reading Jorie Graham's Swarm. In this collection, Graham uses a lot of white space, sentence fragments, single, separated words, and parentheses. The poems look like pictures on the pages, and beg to be read aloud.

Here is an excerpt from "Daphne" on page 44:


Pick     a card.

Wrong again.

Interrupt belief.

Write down hope.

Move lips in sleep.



Be less.

Be found.

Be muzzled.

Say write hard answers on me.

Bear down make clear.

The moon rises.

Will never be perfect.

Be good open mouth.

Don't scream.

This poem reads as a list of imperatives. An unseen speaker instructs Daphne--the nymph who was changed into a laurel tree while fleeing Apollo's unwanted attention--on how to escape the love-struck god. She must become an object, something that is "less" than fully human, something "found," and "muzzled;" something that is acted upon--"write hard answers on me"--rather than the actor, the one who used to run and hunt and enjoy the riches of nature.


Bubbles, Ink. said...

I don't know...thoughts of ee cummings come to mind while reading this. and then i wonder, why not just get some cummings and call it a day.

Gilbert Koh said...

These kinds of poems suffer from a particular drawback. They're interesting to look at, but they tend to sound boring and silly when you read them aloud (like, at a poetry reading event).

Btw, Amy, do pop over to my blog when you have a moment, to see my recent big news!

Amy said...

Perhaps I am doing the poem a disservice by posting only an excerpt. I completely disagree that this poem seems "boring" or "silly" when read aloud, although some form poems might. This poem takes a little work; I did not find its emotional impact until I reread the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo and spent time with the word breaks. Then I found the unifying concept--that of accepting objectification as a kind of illusory freedom. But I have the benefit of having read the whole poem and the collection.

As far as comparing Graham to cummings--I think only the use of space may bring his work to mind. The emotional content and voice is very different. I can't imagine substituting one for the other.