Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Overlord: Poems

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Overlord: Poems

Article excerpt

Overlord: Poems, by Jorie Graham. Ecco, March 2005. $22.95

This is a difficult, fragmented set of poems from a brilliant, sensitive, searching mind. Graham is struggling with questions of war, suffering, death, and history, writing from the beach in Normandy, wrestling with the history of Operation Overlord, the military's code name for the D-Day invasion. What fascinates me most in these poems is how the voice and tone of the poems shifts as Graham moves from her own struggles with finding a workable sense of self grounded in the present, to the intense clarity of the poems that express the lives of the soldiers of Normandy. Here are some lines from "Upon Emergence": " Have I that to which to devote my / self? Have I devotion? The shoes, the / clothes? The drowning of appetites, as the chariots / were drowned?" and then: "We live in time. It is a / holiday. All around it timelessness which will begin again, / yet still, for now, sticks to one time like remnant rain." Located so precariously in time, she records various attempts to pray, as in "Praying (Attempt of May 9, '03)": "I don't know where to start. I don't think my face / in my hands is right. ... I know I know nothing. I know I / can't use you like this. It feels better if I'm on my knees . . . Please show me mercy. No please show / a way." Again and again her voice shifts, her confidence seeming all but non-existent, pleading, searching, suggesting ideas and rejecting them outright. …

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