[To] The Last [Be] Human

Jorie Graham

​​[To] The Last [Be] Human collects four extraordinary poetry books—Sea Change, Place, Fast, and Runaway—by Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham, presenting a body of work that stands as a “lyric record” of the calamitous decades that began the twenty-first century.

From the introduction by Robert Macfarlane:

This glittering, teeming Anthropocene journal is…rife with hope and raw with loss, lush and sparse, hard to parse and hugely powerful to experience. As these poems face our planet’s deep-time future, their shadows are cast by the long light of the will-have-been. Made of more durable materials than granite and concrete, their tasks are of record as well as of warning: to preserve what it felt like to be a human in these accelerated years when “the future / takes shape / too quickly.”…To read these four books in a single volume is to experience vastly complex patterns forming and reforming in mind, eye, and ear. These poems sing within themselves, between one another, and across collections, and the song that joins them all is uttered simply in the first lines of the last poem of the last book:

          The earth said

         remember me.

         The earth said

         don’t let go,


         said it one day

         when I was




ISBN: 9781556596605

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Jorie Graham was born in New York City in 1950. She was raised in Rome, Italy and educated in French schools. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris before attending New York University as an undergraduate, where she studied filmmaking. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa. Graham is the author of 14 collections of poetry, most recently Runaway (Ecco 2020), Fast (Ecco 2017), PLACE (Ecco 2012), Sea Change (Ecco, 2008) and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won …

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“Collecting Graham’s four stellar eco-poetic volumes, this searing and sensitive portrait of environmental contingency is as formally ambitious as it is captivating and wise. As Robert Macfarlane aptly writes in his beautiful introduction, the task of these poems is one ‘of record as well as of warning: to preserve what it felt like to be a human in these accelerated years when “the future / takes shape / too quickly.”’. . . To hold these volumes together is to have proof of Graham’s unmatched powers and to reckon with the resilience the present age demands.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review 

“Why think, why write, why break the silence? I have wondered sometimes if global warming makes our own deaths feel more real, as though threats to civilization were an overdeath, as though we had to die twice. But if ‘the synthetic materials last forever,’ as Graham writes in ‘Deep Water Trawling’ (our plastics are destined to outlive our species), there is also a sense in which our work lasts forever. ‘What the lips just inconceivably apart can make,’ she wrote in ‘The End of Beauty,’ ‘cannot then, ever again, be uncreated.’” —The New York Times

“Four of Graham’s seminal works are collected and serve as a lyric testament to the poet’s writing on climate change and loss, while also celebrating the beauty and gifts of the world.”—Publishers Weekly Fall Announcements Top Ten

“Jorie Graham faces the future anguished but unblinking in this magnificent collection of her four most recent books. . . . Their importance goes beyond the literary. . . . She is weathervane, sentinel, about-to-be lost soul. What makes her work required reading is her readiness to go where angels fear to write, to do the terrifying work of visualizing the future. . . . At 72, Graham is writing for her life, and ours.” —The Guardian

“This collection gives the reader the sensation of everything happening at once, an acceleration so complete that it feels like the apocalyptic end has already arrived. . . . To go about daily life, I am suspended between resignation and activism, and engage in too little of the latter. Graham’s tetralogy gives the reader a different possibility: adaptation and radical witness. Her language and poetic structure adapt to her changing world and reality, and never succumbs to denial.” —The Rumpus

If readers imagine this book, as Graham does, as an artifact to be ‘dug up from rubble in the future,’ it maintains value for later readers from distant generations or civilizations. In this sense, Graham’s depiction of a world in the midst of its own ruin serves less as an antidote for impending devastation—it’s too late for that—than as a minority report on our humanistic response to it, one that might persist, as Macfarlane says, across ‘the long light of the will-have-been,’ even if we’ve failed to correct the course of our environmental history.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“A monumental exploration of consciousness in an age of ecological, political, and existential crisis.”—New Yorker, Best Books of 2022