Places in the Making maps a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century American poets who have used language to evoke the world at various scales. Distinct from related traditions including landscape poetry, nature poetry, and pastoral poetry—which tend toward more idealized and transcendent lyric registers—this study traces a poetics centered upon more particular and situated engagements with actual places and spaces. Close generic predecessors of this mode, such as topographical poetry and loco-descriptive poetry, folded themselves into the various regionalist traditions of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, but place making in modern and contemporary American poetics has extended beyond its immediate environs, unfolding at the juncture of the proximate and the remote, and establishing transnational, planetary, and cosmic formations in the process. Turning to geography as an interdisciplinary point of departure, Places in the Making distinguishes itself by taking a comparative and multiethnic approach, considering the relationship between identity and emplacement among a more representative demographic cross-section of Americans, and extending its inquiry beyond national borders.
Positing place as a pivotal axis of identification and heralding emplacement as a crucial model for cultural, intellectual, and political activity in a period marked and imperiled by a tendency toward dislocation, the critical vocabulary of this project centers upon the work of place-making. It attends to a poetics that extends beyond epic and lyric modes while relying simultaneously on auditory and visual effects and proceeding in the interests of environmental advocacy and social justice, often in contrast to the more orthodox concerns of literary modernism, global capitalism, and print culture. Focusing on poets of international reputation, such as Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Charles Olson, and William Carlos Williams, Places in the Making also considers work by more recent figures, including Kamau Brathwaite, Joy Harjo, Myung Mi Kim, and Craig Santos Perez. In its larger comparative, multiethnic, and transnational emphases, this book addresses questions of particular moment in American literary and cultural studies and aspires to serve as a catalyst for further interdisciplinary work connecting geography and the humanities.