Jorie Graham

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Jorie Graham
Jorie Graham, speaking at a poetry reading in 2007
Jorie Pepper

(1950-05-09) May 9, 1950 (age 73)
  • William Graham
  • (m. 1983; div. 1999)
  • (m. 2000)

Jorie Graham (née Pepper; born May 9, 1950) is an American poet. The Poetry Foundation called Graham "one of the most celebrated poets of the American post-war generation."[1] She replaced poet Seamus Heaney as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, becoming the first woman to be appointed to this position.[1] She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1996) for The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 and was chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. She won the 2013 International Nonino Prize in Italy.

Early life and education[edit]

Graham was born in New York City in 1950 to Curtis Bill Pepper, a war correspondent and the head of the Rome bureau for Newsweek magazine, and the sculptor Beverly Stoll Pepper. She and her brother John Randolph Pepper were raised in Rome, Italy. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, but was expelled for participating in student protests. She completed her undergraduate work as a film major at New York University, and became interested in poetry during that time. (She claims that her interest was sparked while walking past M.L. Rosenthal's classroom and overhearing the last couplet of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" ). After working as a secretary, she later went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts from the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.


Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including notable volumes like The End of Beauty, The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, Sea Change, P L A C E, From the New World (Poems 1976-2014), Fast, and Runaway. She has also edited two anthologies, Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language (1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990. She is widely anthologized and her poetry is the subject of many essays, including Jorie Graham: Essays on the Poetry (2005). The Poetry Foundation considers Graham's third book, The End of Beauty (1987), to have been a "watershed" book in which Graham first used the longer verse line for which she is best known.[1] Graham's many honors include a Whiting Award (1985), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Fellowship, The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the Whiting Award.[2] The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her collection of poetry P L A C E won the 2012 Forward Poetry Prize for best collection, becoming the first American woman ever to win one of the UK's most prestigious poetry accolades.[3] P L A C E was also shortlisted for the 2012 T S Eliot Prize.[4] In 2013, Graham became only the third American to win the International Nonino Prize. In 2015, From the New World: Selected Poems 1976-2014—a collection from all prior eleven volumes plus new work—was published by HarperCollins/Ecco Press. In 2016 From the New World won the LA Times Book Award for poetry.[5]

In 2017, Graham received the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.[6] Given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry, recipients are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy's Board of Chancellors. She won the 2018 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for Fast.[7]

About Jorie Graham, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Claudia Rankine said: "Jorie Graham's masterful poems traverse almost four decades of inquiry into what it means to be in relation. Her work pulls forward our mythical, historical, environmental, and personal narratives in order to inhabit our most ordinary and collective experiences. Hers is the patience of the return; repetition in her work unearths the nuances of fundamental desires to live, to love, to be. Clear-eyed and with a scope that encompasses what is both known and unknown, her 15 collections have built towards a brilliant insistence on presence."[6]

She served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.

Personal life[edit]

Graham has held a longtime faculty position at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has held an appointment at Harvard University since 1999. Graham replaced Nobel Laureate and poet Seamus Heaney as Boylston professor in Harvard's Department of English and American Literature and Language. She became the first woman to be awarded this position.[1][8]

Graham was married to and divorced from publishing heir William Graham, brother of Donald E. Graham, the former publisher of The Washington Post. She then married the poet James Galvin in 1983 and they divorced in 1999. She married poet and painter Peter M. Sacks, in 2000.[9]

Poetry competition controversy[edit]

In January 1999, she judged the University of Georgia Contemporary Poetry series contest, which selected the manuscript "O Wheel" from Peter Sacks, her future husband, as the first-place winner. Graham noted that at that time she was not married to Sacks, and that while she had "felt awkward" about giving the award to her then-boyfriend, she had first cleared it with the series editor, Bin Ramke.[9][10] As a result of the critical media coverage[11][12][13] Ramke resigned from the editorship of the series. Graham subsequently announced that she would no longer serve as a judge in contests[9][12] although she continued to do so after 2008.[14] Throughout the course of the contest, Ramke had insisted that judges of the contest be kept secret, and until obtained the names of judges via The Open Records Act, the conflict of interest had been undisclosed. A statement now adopted in the rules of many competitions (including the University of Georgia Contest) to prevent judges from selecting students is often referred to as the "Jorie Graham rule".[13][15][16]

The Foetry site also contended that Graham, as a judge at Georgia and other contests, had awarded prizes to at least five of her former students from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, including Joshua Clover, Mark Levine, and Geoffrey Nutter.[16] Graham's reply to this was that over years of teaching she has had over 1400 students, many of whom went on to continue writing poetry, that no rules had prohibited her from awarding prizes to former students, and that in each case she claims to have selected the strongest work.[9]


Year Title Award Result Ref.
1985 Whiting Award for Poetry Winner [17]
1991 Region of Unlikeness Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry Finalist [18]
1994 Materialism: Poems Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry Finalist [19]
1996 Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry Finalist [20][21]
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winner [22]
2008 Sea Change: Poems Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry Finalist [23]
2012 P L A C E Forward Prize for Poetry Winner [24]
T. S. Eliot Prize Finalist [25]
2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature Finalist [26]
2015 From the New World: Poems 1976–2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry Winner [27]
2017 Wallace Stevens Award Winner [28][29]



  • Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts. Princeton University Press. 1980. ISBN 978-0-691-01335-0.
  • Erosion. Princeton University Press. 1983. ISBN 978-0-691-01405-0. Jorie Graham.
  • The End of Beauty. Ecco Press. 1987. ISBN 978-0-88001-130-3.
  • Region of Unlikeness. Ecco Press. 1991. ISBN 978-0-88001-290-4.
  • Materialism. Ecco. 1993. ISBN 978-0-88001-617-9.
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994. HarperCollins. 1995. ISBN 978-0-88001-476-2.
  • The Errancy. Ecco Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-88001-528-8.
  • Photographs and Poems. Photographs Jeannette Montgomery Barron. Scalo. 1998.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  • Swarm. HarperCollins. 2000. ISBN 978-0-06-093509-2.
  • Never. HarperCollins. 2002. ISBN 978-0-06-008472-1.
  • Overlord. HarperCollins. 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-075811-0.
  • Sea Change. HarperCollins. 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-153718-9.
  • P L A C E. Ecco Press. 2012. ISBN 9780062190642
  • From The New World: Poems 1976-2014. Ecco Press. 2015. ISBN 9780062315403
  • Fast. Ecco Press. 2017. ISBN 9780062663481.
  • Runaway. Ecco Press. 2020. ISBN 9780063036703.
  • [To] The Last [Be] Human. Copper Canyon. 2022. ISBN 9781556596605.
  • To 2040. Copper Canyon. 2023. ISBN 9781556596773.
Anthologies (edited)
  • Graham, Jorie & David Lehman, eds. (1990). The Best American Poetry 1990. Collier Books.
  • Graham, Jorie, ed. (1996). Earth took of earth : 100 great poems of the English language. Ecco Press.
List of poems
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
I catch sight of the now 2021 Graham, Jorie (January 4–11, 2021). "I catch sight of the now". The New Yorker. 96 (43): 36–37.
I 2021 Graham, Jorie (September 27, 2021). "I". The New Yorker. 97 (30): 76–77.

Essays and other contributions[edit]

  • Contributor to A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue Between East and West (Gingko Library, 2019). ISBN 9781909942288

Critical studies and reviews of Graham's work[edit]

  • Helen Vendler. The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham (1995)
  • Thomas Gardner, Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry (1999)
  • Daniel McGuiness, "Jorie Graham in Stitches" and "The Long Line in Jorie Graham and Charles Wright," in Holding Patterns: Temporary Poetics in Contemporary Poetry, State University of New York Press, Albany NY (2001)
  • Catherine Karaguezian, No Image There and the Gaze Remains: The Visual in the Work of Jorie Graham (2005)
  • Thomas Gardner (ed.), Jorie Graham: Essays on the Poetry (2005)


  1. ^ a b c d "Jorie Graham". Poetry Foundation. October 18, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  2. ^ "whiting awards | Jorie Graham - 1985 Winner in Poetry". Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Alison Flood (October 1, 2012). "Jorie Graham takes 2012 Forward prize". The Guardian. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  4. ^ Alison Flood (October 23, 2012). "TS Eliot prize for poetry announces 'fresh, bold' shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  5. ^ Lewis, David. "Here are the 2016 L.A. Times Book Prize winners". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  6. ^ a b nparedes (August 15, 2017). "The Academy of American Poets Announces the Recipients of the 2017 American Poets Prizes". The Academy of American Poets Announces the Recipients of the 2017 American Poets Prizes. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  7. ^ "Jorie Graham Wins Bobbitt Poetry Prize". Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  8. ^ David Orr, "ON POETRY; Jorie Graham, Superstar," 'New York Times Sunday Book Review, April 24, 2005; available at the Time website (accessed March 16, 2008)
  9. ^ a b c d Tomas Alex Tizon, "In Search of Poetic Justice," Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2005. Available at the LA Times (subscription needed). Text is available at New Poetry Review Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine or SFgate (accessed 16 March 2007)
  10. ^ Kevin Larimer, "The Contester: Who's Doing What to Keep Them Clean", Poets & Writers Magazine, July/August 2005. Formerly available at Poets and Writers Archived 2007-11-19 at the Wayback Machine (page currently offline)
  11. ^ archive Archived 2007-06-13 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b Thomas Bartlett, "Rhyme and Unreason," Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2005, available here (accessed March 16, 2005)
  13. ^ a b John Sutherland, "American foetry," The Guardian, Monday July 4, 2005 the Guardian
  14. ^ Graham was selected to judge the 2008 "Discovery"/Boston Review 2008 Poetry Contest Archived 2008-03-31 at the Wayback Machine, with deadline January 18, 2008; and judged the Baker Nord Poetry Competition in 2011.
  15. ^ Alex Beam, "Website polices rhymes and misdemeanors," Boston Globe, March 31, 2005, available here
  16. ^ a b "Foetry page on Jorie Graham". Archived from the original on July 19, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  17. ^ "Search All Winners". Whiting Awards. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  18. ^ "1991 Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Poetry Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  19. ^ "1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Poetry Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  20. ^ "1996 Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Poetry Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  21. ^ "Awards: L.A. Times Book; Griffin Poetry". Shelf Awareness. April 14, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  22. ^ "About Jorie Graham | Academy of American Poets". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  23. ^ "2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Poetry Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  24. ^ "Awards: Thurber Winner; Forward Prize for Poetry". Shelf Awareness. October 2, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  25. ^ "Awards: T.S. Eliot Prize Shortlist". Shelf Awareness. October 26, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  26. ^ "Awards: Neustadt International Finalists". Shelf Awareness. July 25, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  27. ^ "2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Poetry Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  28. ^ "Awards: PEN Center USA; Academy of American Poets". Shelf Awareness. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  29. ^ "The Academy of American Poets Announces the Recipients of the 2017 American Poets Prizes |". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved August 4, 2022.

External links[edit]