Overlord

Overlord

by Jorie Graham
     
 

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What does it mean to be fully present in a human life? How — in the face of the carnage of war, the no longer merely threatened destruction of the natural world, the faceless threat of spiritual oversimplification and reactive fear — does one retain one's capacity to be both present and responsive? And to what extent does our capacity to be present, to be

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Overview

What does it mean to be fully present in a human life? How — in the face of the carnage of war, the no longer merely threatened destruction of the natural world, the faceless threat of spiritual oversimplification and reactive fear — does one retain one's capacity to be both present and responsive? And to what extent does our capacity to be present, to be fully ourselves, depend on our relationship to an other and our understanding of and engagement with otherness itself? With what forces does the sheer act of apprehending make us complicit? What powers lord over us and what do we, as a species, and as souls, lord over?

These are among the questions Jorie Graham, in her most personal and urgent collection to date, undertakes to explore, often from a vantage point geographically, as well as historically, other. Many of the poems take place along the coastline known as Omaha Beach in Normandy, and move between visions of that beach during the Allied invasion of Europe (whose code name was Operation Overlord) and that landscape of beaches, fields, and hedgerows as it is known to the speaker today. In every sense the work meditates on our new world, ghosted by, and threatened by, competing descriptions of the past, the future, and what it means to be, as individuals, and as a people, "free."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title for Graham's best book in at least a decade introduces several obsessions at once: it's the code name for American plans on D-Day, a sign for the absence-or perhaps presence-of an omnipotent God, and a term for arrogant nations (the U.S. among them) who have forgotten, or never learned, the lessons of the Greatest Generation. Graham, who won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for The Dream of the Unified Field, pursues familiar metaphysical questions through the long lines and longer sentences of meditations such as "Upon Emergence": "Have I that to which to devote my/ self? Have I devotion?"; a series of poems with the title "Praying" take the question to its ends, often ending up angry, guilty or shocked. One anecdotal poem depicts her trying and failing to feed a homeless man; a more abstract effort imagines "a horrible labyrinth, this/ history of ours. No/ opening." Most striking of all are works closely tied to D-Day, to Normandy (where Graham now spends part of each year) and to servicemen's own testimony, which casts contemporary fears into ironic relief: "Are you at war or at peace," Graham asks, "or are war and peace/ playing their little game over your dead body?" The vague, notebook-like qualities of Graham's last few efforts baffled some admirers, who will likely, and rightly, see these clear and powerful poems as a return to form. (Mar. 2) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Graham's (Dream of the Unified Field) ninth poetry collection is arguably her most impassioned, if not anxious, meditation on the nature of human presence and the possibility of belief in a diminished, fallen world where "The aim is to become/ something broken/ that cannot be broken further." Frenetic, one-sided conversations with a God or gods ("Your god might be the wrong one for the circumstances") sweep across the width of the page in long, self-questioning, and self-answering waves, as if the poet's mind were possessed by a relentless insomnia. Tracing the metaphysical scar tissue between raw desire to locate meaning and validation in the physical universe ("It's me I shout to the tree outside the window/ don't you know it's me, a me") and the urge to withdraw ("We can pull back/ from the being of our bodies...we can be absent, no one can tell."). But the crisis of selfhood is a difficult subject to manage, and Graham's cascading ruminations can turn too theatrical and self-conscious ("Every morning now I am putting these words down/ in the place of other words"), as the poet cannot escape the knowledge that her private Gethsemene is, in fact, a public garden. Recommended for larger academic library poetry collections.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060758110
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/28/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
946,607
Product dimensions:
7.37(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.30(d)

Meet the Author

Jorie Graham is the author of 12 collections, including The Dream of the Unified Field which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard University.

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