Jorie Graham was born in New York City and raised in Rome, Italy. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris before attending New York University as an undergraduate, where she studied filmmaking and earned a BA in 1973. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa in 1978.
Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Runaway: New Poems (HarperCollins, 2020); Fast: Poems (Ecco, 2017); From the New World: Poems 1976–2014 (Ecco, 2015); Place: New Poems (Ecco, 2012); Sea Change (Ecco, 2008); Never (Ecco, 2002); Swarm (Ecco, 2000); and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974–1994 (Ecco, 1997), which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
For 30 years Jorie Graham has engaged the whole human contraption—intellectual, global, domestic, apocalyptic—rather than the narrow emotional slice of it most often reserved for poems. She thinks of the poet not as a recorder but as a constructor of experience. Like [Rainer Maria] Rilke
or [William Butler] Yeats
, she imagines the hermetic poet as a public figure, someone who addresses the most urgent philosophical and political issues of the time simply by writing poems.
Graham has been hailed by John Ashbery
as “one of the finest poets writing today” and by James Tate
as “a poet of staggering intelligence.” Tate adds that “her poems are constantly on the attack. She assays nothing less than the whole body of our history, reshaping myth in ways that risk new knowledge, fresh understanding of all that we might hope to be.”
Graham has also edited two anthologies: Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language
(Ecco, 1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990
(Scribner, 1990). Her many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She served as a Chancellor
of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. In 2017, she received the Wallace Stevens Award
, given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.
Graham has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University.