Poetry News

Jorie Graham on a World Apart from Reality

By Harriet Staff

In recognition of Jorie Graham’s newest book, Place, The Spectator posted an interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Place is Graham’s twelfth collection, and deals with inhabiting our world in relation to future beings. Here, Graham speaks about the need for hope, despite doleful environmental reports:

That it might be, as many scientists think, ‘too late’ — an unliveable, unsustainable world already ‘in the pipeline’ — is too baffling to the soul. So then, how to live? I mean, not just what to ‘do’ — there is so much hope in doing, in inventing — but how to live without our great capacity for joy? Why should we?

Graham also encourages “going through experience” rather than “around” it, and expresses serious concerns about our increasingly virtual world:

I believe we live in a world with way too little reality, or means of accessing reality — if by ‘reality’ we mean a place where your accountability for actions is not virtual. I am not the only one to think much of the tragic violence being perpetrated by soldiers, for example, is caused by the violence perpetrated on them by making them feel the ‘game’ is virtual — even the people their tanks fire upon are converted to resemble outlines in video games on their monitors. Put people in front of virtual people and they will come to feel, themselves, both immune and virtual. 487,000 US soldiers are suicidal and have acute Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Now obviously war’s hell has done this to generations — just thinking of World War I is enough. But something extra has been added here — and that is the video-game thinness of the reality of the other. One has to wonder how much not even feeling your so-called enemy to be “real” makes you even more broken and divorced from your soul.

In such a world, Graham says, a poet’s place becomes both complicated and important. Go to The Spectator to learn how the poet establishes her place.

Originally Published: June 22nd, 2012