[Graham's] new book, From the New World: Poems 1976-2014, is an important consolidation of her work. It reshuffles but does not essentially alter our sense of her verse, which has grown somewhat more political and environmentally minded over time. We watch the length of her lines expand and contract. But her voice has barely changed. This is a poet who, for better and sometimes worse, arrived almost fully formed ... Her poems tend to be difficult, but not in an academic sense. She leads you to the door of comprehension, often enough, only to close it on your ankle. To remain with her, you must be willing to suspend reason and allow her language to flow over you like a syntactic spa treatment.
Graham started as a poet of brilliantly dissected subjectivity, more attuned to the flaws and the anomalies in her point of view than in anything she witnessed. But something dramatic happens in the course of From the New World, as her meticulous frame-by-frame inspection of reality begins to yield evidence of, among other things, ecological peril ... Because her poems enact the states—bewilderment, estrangement, panic, elation—that they describe, they are unusually subject to their own mental actions. Graham is sometimes faulted for language that is fuzzy or provisional; she is perhaps most notorious for poems that leave actual blank spaces or x and y variables where meaning apparently cannot, in the moment, be supplied ... This book conveys how poetry might function not as a well-wrought urn or cri de cœur but as an extension of the senses into realms where crucial sensory witness has been largely impossible.
...only Graham has synthesized all of the available strains — the ageless tradition of poetic contemplation; the half-century trend toward self-revelation; the mischievous, self-conscious cynicism about the very proposition of meaningful language — into a style that reflects the real world back, gives powerful moral commentary and makes our hair stand a bit on end because something real glows in each of her poems. Graham is to post-1980 poetry what Bob Dylan is to post-1960 rock: She changed her art form, moved it forward, made it able to absorb and express more than it could before. It permanently bears her mark ... Graham risks alienating her readers by going above their heads or too far into her own. At times, especially in the long, many-sectioned poems of the late 1990s and early aughts, Graham can seem almost incomprehensible. Yet this is a symptom of artistic courage and growth: Graham has been fearless about her own artistic development. She’s gone wherever the poems have led her ... Graham is one of our great poets. Her words will long outlast all of this chatter.