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The Local Poem in a Global Age

The Local Poem in a Global Age

(p.51) Chapter 2 The Local Poem in a Global Age
Poetry in a Global Age
Jahan Ramazani
University of Chicago Press

Loco-descriptive or topographical poetry—the poetry of specific places—has a long and distinguished history. But as globalization enmeshes localities across vast intercontinental spaces, place is never singular but always layered and multiply connected. As the transnational turn in the humanities reconfigures our understanding of local and global, it may be time to reconsider poetry and place. Poetry studies since the 1980s has turned toward what could be called loco-materialist approaches that emphasize the relation of poetry to factual places at particular times. But such approaches may be better suited to more mimetic genres, such as guidebooks and realist historical novels, than they are to poetry’s formal density, long memory, and radial connectivity—qualities that are especially fitting for a global age. This chapter questions reductive assumptions about poetry’s relation to place, such as those embodied by websites that pin poems to maps, such as Poetry Atlas. It calls for a dismantling of an uncomplicated framework of locality for reading poems. Key examples include Ezra Pound, James Wright, Thomas Hardy, Claude McKay, Arun Kolatkar, A. K. Ramanujan, Lorna Goodison, A. R. Ammons, Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, Lorine Niedecker, and Agha Shahid Ali.

Keywords:   loco-descriptive poetry, topographical poetry, globalization, locality, poetry studies, poetry and place, Poetry Atlas, Arun Kolatkar, Lorine Niedecker, Agha Shahid Ali

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