An NPR Best Book of the Year
A new collection of poetry from one of our most acclaimed contemporary poets, Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham
In her formidable and clairvoyant new collection, Runaway, Jorie Graham deepens her vision of our futurity. What of us will survive? Identity may be precarious, but perhaps love is not? Keeping pace with the desperate runaway of climate change, social disruption, our new mass migrations, she struggles to reimagine a habitable present—a now—in which we might endure, wary, undaunted, ever-inventive, “counting silently towards infinity.” Graham’s essential voice guides us fluently “as we pass here now into the next-on world,” what future we have surging powerfully through these pages, where the poet implores us “to the last be human.”
Graham (Fast) begins her fifth decade of publishing with a bravura performance that probes the present for what the future will bring. In four sections of long-lined poems, many of which run two-to-four pages in length, moments that are seen, felt, and processed dazzle the reader. Graham sets the stage in the first line of the opening poem: "After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on." The poem's final image is both artificial and natural: "nothing to touch/ where the blinding white thins as the flash moves off/ what had been just the wide-flung yellow poppy." Other poems include texting abbreviations ("u" and "yr"), and by the end, the reader's world feels virtual. The second to last poem, "In the Nest," has the speaker saying goodbye to "Mother": "I tap/ again only to see your/ face erase itself//...An arrow points/ as I descend again/ into your room/ from the sensor// in your ceiling// watching u./ We think this is/ the past." The book ends with a plea from the Earth to "Re-/ member me." Through her signature urgent questioning, Graham makes plain the psychic and physical cost to humans of wrecking the Earth.