To 2040

Image of To 2040
Release Date: 
April 18, 2023
Copper Canyon Press
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“To 2040 is a visionary collection that challenges readers to transform the natural world into multisensory reflection.”

To 2040 is a visionary collection that challenges readers to transform the natural world into multisensory reflection. The poems explore moments of introspection—the in between of things—to reflect upon the past and question the future. Each poem is a moment of self-identity.

Here are some lines from “They Ask Me,” a poem in which the title become its first line: “why the new / flawless birds / wired to perfection / whose beauty // song flight lift / hover settle you / cannot tell from / those not coming // back are not the / same, whose / feathertips shine / as if in the old // sunlight, whose / speckled wings / mottle further with / perfect shadow-speckle, . . . // do they not satisfy / us, why it is / only if we shut our / eyes the trills—"

Graham transforms images of intricate, beautiful, commonplace birds into metaphors for human emotions of ambivalence, loneliness, regret, and pleasure all in one poem. This is extremely difficult to achieve without confusion. Yet Graham pulls it off in simple language. She observes, yet does not cherish, how birds grant life, art, and innocence; and then she chases them away.

Several poems require vocal readings, as Jorie Graham chooses to play with grammar and spelling. She drops letters and breaks lines in unusual ways, with curious word choices, transforming traditional linear readings into multifaced structures that compel readers to dig deeper into meanings. Why does she do this? Let’s find out.

From “Can You,” a poem which personifies the multisensory forces of nature: “Can You // hear yourself / breathe. Can you help / me. Can you / hear the fly. Can you // hear the tree. No / I don’t mean wind, / I mean the breathing of / the tree through // bark. Can u, say the grasses, / please hear / us. Can we hear u hear / the tips of water on // us, lithe & / so heavy with light & bending / lens-tips. Can u / hear this e- // evaporation. Can u . . .”

Graham writes short lines and letters to propel the poem and pique the senses in “Can You.” Each line presents a flicker of a moment in which to envision the poem’s natural landscape, a landscape to respect and admire. Even using the single letter “u” throughout creates a sense of humility, a sense that we are a tiny species among Earth’s creatures. The poem’s vertical structure fortifies its metaphor.

To 2040 is 112 pages and requires multiple reads for all ages. Pay close attention to the structure and grammar choices—they are very inspired, exact, and new. Also try reading the poems out loud. There are tones and pauses that must be embodied. Read this collection to learn about how to sense, embody, and reflect upon our delicate environment.