Author: Jorie Graham
Extent: 104 pp
Publication: Aprily 2023
Publisher: Carcanet Press
To 2040 begins with question masquerading as fact: ‘Are we / extinct yet. Who owns / the map.’ These visionary new poems reveal Graham as historian, cartographer, prophet, plotting 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 exposes a potentially inevitable future, sirens sounding among industrial ruins. In sparse lines that move with cinematic precision, we pan from overhead views of reshaped shorelines to close-ups of a burrowing worm. Here, we linger, climate crisis on hold, as Graham invites the reader to sit silent, to hear soil breathe.
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. 2040 as both future and event-horizon: the reader leaves the book warned, wiser, attentively on edge. ‘Inhale. / Are you still there / the sun says to me’. The title poem asks, ‘what was yr message, what were u meant to / pass on?’
What makes her work required reading is her readiness to go where angels fear to write, to do the terrifying work of visualising the future…. Every poem is an attempt at orientation – sometimes within a disorienting void. However considered Graham’s revisions, the sense is of being in the moment with her – intimacy the closest thing to consolation. Kate Kellaway, The Observer
Attempting to comment briefly on this visionary commotion is like trying to capture thunder and lightning in a bottle… This is a world beyond humanity, beyond nature, beyond culture, and yet amid the ruins there is the undeniable triumph and power of poetic utterance. Rachel Hadas, Times Literary Supplement