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?
Breece D’J Pancake’s stories often begin in the intersection of the highly permanent and the temporary, and unfurl in moments of instability.
Poetry was never Katherine Anne Porter’s central pursuit: as Darlene Harbour Unrue notes in her introduction to Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry, Porter was “never a first-rate poet, by her own admission.” But the pieces within are hypnotic—Porter’s distinctive and authoritative speakers conjure vast worlds in small spaces.
Walking in wilderness is sometimes marketed as a clarifying experience—walk to clear your head, or push your limits, or find peace. I’ve always found it to be an exercise in entertaining contradictory thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
The poems of A. R. Ammons focus on easily overlooked, easily dismissed elements of the natural world. Ammons observes the inevitability of time both on a microscopic and global level: how time affects everything from maggots to “drift-logs.”