The poet Jorie Graham was born in New York in 1950. The daughter of a journalist and a sculptress, she grew up in Italy and was educated in French schools. Graham’s first passion was film. As a teenager she worked on Antonioni’s film sets, and after graduating in philosophy at the Sorbonne (from which she was expelled owing to her participation in the student protests) she became a film student at New York State University. It was there that she became interested in poetry. Her first poems were published in anthologies and magazines. In 1978 she received her Master’s in Creative Writing at the well-known Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she then herself taught from 1983 to 1999. Subsequently, Graham held the Boylston Professorship for Rhetoric at Harvard, and still teaches there today, as the first woman to do so, and as the successor to Seamus Heaney.
Graham numbers among contemporary avant-garde poets since her first collection »Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts« (1980). This avant-garde has left the path of confessional poetry that was established in the fifties and sixties, and innovatively pursues its thematic material in essential questions of being, the self, and perception. Her passionate and cerebral poetry is characterized by the use of opulent metaphors, the adaptation of myths, and the use of references to European art and culture. Graham dissects beauty in the search for truth. Of fundamental importance for the trilingual poet are the restrictions placed on communicating truths by the medium of language itself. Each poem is »an act of the mind that tries – via precision of seeing, feeling, and thinking – to clean the language of its current lies, to make it capable of connecting us to the world«. Poetry may have the ability to cast light on even such horrors as the Holocaust, war, and death. Graham’s tenth and most recent collection »Overlord« (2005) – the title refers to the D-Day military operation – analyses the possibilities that remain to thinking people in the light of the destructive forces in their own nature and in history.
Graham has also published two anthologies of poetry. Her own collection »Region of Unlikeness« (1991) will shortly be published in German translation. Among her numerous awards is a Pulitzer Prize for »The Dream of the Unified Field« (1995). She has been a member of many juries, and was from 1997 to 2003 director of the Academy of American Poets. The mother of a grown-up daughter, she currently lives in western France and in the American town of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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