To 2040 Spiral-Bound | April 18, 2023
It is rare to find in one collection an entire skyline burning and the quiet to follow a single worm, to hear soil breathe—in Jorie Graham's fifteenth poetry collection, you do.
Jorie Graham’s fifteenth poetry collection, To 2040, opens in question punctuated as fact: “Are we / extinct yet. Who owns / the map.” In these visionary new poems, Graham is part historian, part cartographer as she plots an apocalyptic world where rain must be translated, silence sings louder than speech, and wired birds parrot recordings of their extinct ancestors. In one poem, the speaker is warned by a clairvoyant “the American experiment will end in 2030.” Graham shows us our potentially inevitable future soundtracked by sirens among industrial ruins, contemplating the loss of those who inhabited and named them.
In sparse lines that move with cinematic precision, these poems pan from overhead views of reshaped shorelines to close-ups of a worm burrowing through earth. Here, we linger, climate crisis on hold, as Graham asks us to sit silently, to hear soil breathe. An urgent open letter to the future, with a habit of looking back, To 2040 is narrated by a speaker who reflects on her own mortality—in the glass window of a radiotherapy room, in the first “claw full of hair” placed gently on a green shower ledge. In poems that look to 2040 as both future and event-horizon, we leave the collection warned, infinitely wiser, and yet more attentively on edge. “Inhale. / Are you still there / the sun says to me.” And, from the title poem, “what was yr message, what were u meant to / pass on?”
Praise for To 2040
"Graham’s 15th collection explores extinction and the possibility of apocalypse in poems that interrogate humanity and environment. The ruins of urban life are juxtaposed with the natural world, offering a portrait of the climate crisis, mortality, and the uncertain future."―Publishers Weekly, Spring 2023 Announcements
"These gorgeous, dismaying, and piercing cautionary lyrics are tragic dispatches from a grim possible future spawned by our distraction and hunger for the wrong things. Clarion and virtuoso, Graham prods, 'are you not listening.' These poems must be heard."―Donna Seaman, Booklist
Praise for Jorie Graham
“We will always need to read Jorie Graham, and to read her closely, if we want to understand the last 40 years of poetry in America.” ―LA Review of Books
“Graham (Fast) begins her fifth decade of publishing with a bravura performance that probes the present for what the future will bring.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Graham has long been breaking open the lyric voice, seeing how much of the vast, fractured, overwhelming present it can contain. Often she explores a self that won’t hold together but must still be held accountable―as a political entity, a citizen.” ―Harper's Magazine
“Pulitzer Prize winner Graham’s poems are like those of John Donne and E.E. Cummings but on speed dial. Like Donne, Graham seeks to encounter the metaphysics of everything.” ―Library Journal
“Graham is one of our great poets. Her words will long outlast all of this chatter.” ―New York Times
“Every poem, Graham suggests, is part net and part wind, its finely knotted phrases and lines straining to “hold,” for longer than an instant, the presence passing through them.” ―New Yorker
“Graham's poems act as the sonar devices of contemporary western consciousness, probing the depths of human existential experience.” ―The Guardian