In her essay “Place in Fiction,” originally delivered as a lecture at Duke in 1955, Eudora Welty almost immediately positions place as an antidote to broad generalizations about human experience.
Mavis Gallant’s “Mlle. Dias de Corta” unfolds more like a novel than a short story. It’s a second-person address to a tenant the narrator, an aging, xenophobic French widow, had twenty years before—a young actress, Alda Dias de Corta, whom the widow took in “for companionship rather than income.”
Saul Bellow’s novel is often characterized as a rich portrait of a mind in crisis. It’s also an exploration of the role of history—and memory—in personal life.
The view camera creates a particular kind of image through extreme pause and meticulous composition; by writing about a view camera, McPhee creates a particular kind of essay, one that uses the techniques of both view camera photography and narrative.
Both Solnit and Milosz transform picturesque vistas into fully alive places on the page. Their methods are instructive not only for writing about place, but as tools for toggling between any set of Big Questions and the particulars of moving as a body through streets.
I’ve often resisted writing about the place I was born. To write about birthplace is to open one’s writing up to a number of potential pitfalls. We feel strongly about the places we come from, and often for uninteresting, arbitrary, or vaguely narcissistic reasons.
Nature offers the comforting suggestion of continuity, an awareness of scale; it can be both menacing and welcoming; it’s fertile ground for symbol and simile. However, in times of heightened political tension, poems about trees can feel like a cop-out, or especially irrelevant.
The first time I read Gina Berriault’s story “The Infinite Passion of Expectation,” I experienced it as an inundation. The plot is strange but simple: a young waitress goes on frequent walks with an eccentric, aging psychologist, who eventually asks her to marry him—she’s unsure. The psychologist lives an
In “The Pagan Rabbi,” nature is not a fixed, objective entity, but an animated, unpredictable, menacing presence. Set in the shadow of World War II, the story follows one scholar’s increasingly surreal perception of the natural world.
News images of natural disaster can be paradoxically surreal, especially if the disaster’s happening in a place you know and love, but have left. How might poets capture complicated interactions between fire and familiarity, fire and violence, distance, and detachment from disaster?