"This is a great book—and in two distinct ways. It is the most capacious guide to recent and contemporary American poetry now available. And it provides a radically new and productive approach to considering the entwined relations between travel and literature. If scholars weren't interested in those topics before, they will be now."
—Steven Gould Axelrod, editor of The New Anthology of American Poetry
What the contemporary discourse concerning displacement, border crossing, and identity needs, says Gray, is a study of that literary genre with the least investment in closure and the least fidelity to ethnic and national continuities. His concern is not only with the psychological challenges to identity but also with travel as a mode of understanding and composition. Following a summary of American critical perspectives on travel from Emerson to the present, Gray discusses how travel, by nature, defamiliarizes and induces heightened awareness. Such phenomena, Gray says, correspond to the tenets of modern poetics: traversing territories, immersing the self in new object worlds, reconstituting the known as unknown. He then devotes a chapter each to four of the past half-century's most celebrated English-speaking, western poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and Derek Walcott. Finally, two multi-poet chapters examine the travel poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Robert Creeley, Lyn Hejinian, Nathaniel Mackey and others.
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