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Release: March 10, 2000

Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham to read from new volume March 21

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham will read from her new collection, "The Swarm," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 21 in Shambaugh Auditorium of the University of Iowa Main Library.

The reading -- part of the "Live From Prairie Lights" series originating on the UI radio station WSUI, 910 AM -- is free and open to the public.

Graham, an alumna and faculty member of the UI Writers' Workshop, has published eight books of poetry. She won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for "The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994." It includes selections from "Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts," "The End of Beauty," "Region of Unlikeness," and "Materialism."

Poet John Ashbery wrote, "Everything comes together here -- the voice like the wind that somehow marshals itself out of kitchen daydreams and prosaic events into utterance that swings with the conviction of Blake's . . . [Graham] is one of the finest poets writing today."

In response to "The Dream of the Unified Field," the Times Literary Supplement called Graham "one of the best, and most intelligent, poets in the language … She is like no one else, neither in her rhythms nor in her insistence on opening up, scrutinizing and even reversing our experience of time and space."

Booklist's review of Graham's next book, "The Errancy," observed that "it begins with a gaze in the mirror and leads one on an epic wandering of discourse, reason and emotion. The book is, therefore, a journey, and in it, Graham's speakers watch, ponder, seek places, '. . . a skull / for the dream' to locate themselves, find body, anchor, point of reference. One has the sense of liftoff, the constant notion of almost being swept away. But in the particulars of everyday life, in the stalled-in-traffic moment, in the looking-out-the-front-window meditative seconds, Graham manages to keep one foot on the ground.

"She straddles realms, uniting religious imagery like Jacob's Ladder with surrealist painting epic-referenced aubades with daily ritual. This work seems a natural next step for Graham's writing. Yet it is a dangerous step, because for most writers publishing on the heels of critical acclaim, there is the temptation to stick with the style and voice that garnered the attention . . . 'The Errancy' proves that Graham is an intricate and experimental thinker."

In her new book, "The Swarm," Graham has again changed her style and voice. "I have severely trimmed and cleared," she informs us, in "From the Reformation Journal." Graham's notes define a "swarm" as "a body of bees which . . . leave the hive or main stock, gather in a compact mass or cluster, and fly off together in search of a new dwelling-place, under the guidance of a queen." Mary Park writes: "Accordingly, these poems find her in the process of abandoning the tropes of mythology and religion, busily destabilizing the old forms in search of the new."

Graham was born in New York City in 1950. She grew up in Italy, studied in French schools, and attended the Sorbonne, New York University and Columbia University, in addition to the UI. She has received a MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was recently appointed Boylston Professor at Harvard University.

For more information on the "Live From Prairie Lights" readings, visit the series' web page at For information and calendar updates on UI arts, visit <> on the World Wide Web.