Noted poet gives reading at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian
October 21, 1998

As most students headed home for fall break last Friday evening, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham read her works to a capacity crowd at the Kelly Writers House. The University of Iowa professor-- who won the Pulitzer for her 1995 collection entitled The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 -- read for more than an hour. English Professor and poet Bob Perelman, who taught at Iowa with Graham, praised her work as "generous and challenging." In his introductory speech, Perelman told the audience that Graham, who has published seven collections, had been "one of the most ambitious people in American poetry," for the past two decades.

Graham read selections from a variety of her work, including poems from The Errancy and Materialism. She apologized that she could not perform all the poems she had been asked to read, adding, "It's sort of overwhelming." Graham told the audience that she is not "an ironic poet" as she read from 1993's Materialism. The poems in that particular book attempt to evoke a dramatic feel. She described the poems in 1997's The Errancy as being based on Rene Magritte's painting entitled "Le Manteau de Pascal," or "Pascal's Coat."

Graham changed the pace a little as she read her third selection from her series of poems "The Reformation Journals" as she explained to the audience, "All of these are love poems." She cautioned the audience that a couple of them are "a little more explicit," and joked, "I don't know which one you are going to find more sexy," as she read her poem "Daphne" followed by a haiku.

Resident Advisor of the Writers House Heather Starr was excited by Graham's performance, noting that "we are very lucky to have her here." Overall, the audience was very impressed with Graham's work and reading style. Jennifer Chang, 22, visiting from New York said she was familiar with Graham's poetry, and described her reading as living "up to her work on the page." She said she was most iinp with Graham's "captivating voice," and found the experience "fantastic." And Graham's reading won he some new fans. Third-year Medical School student Donna Gau said that though she was unfamiliar with Graham's work, she still enjoyed the reading and found it "very lyrical." Graham remained after the reading to discuss her work with the audience.