When a region is strange, a man explores it, comes to know its lengths and heights, its depths and riches and dangers. The time comes when he draws a map of it, not so much for later travelers in more of a hurry as for his own satisfaction in reducing time and space to the size of a sheet of paper. Sometimes this map is a novel, sometimes an essay, a building, a poem, or a portrait. Literature has been called an extension of experience, and few examples of graphic art so stretch and speed experience as a map.
John Holmes, Map of My Country
I just found this incredible article by Adele J. Haft that I find very interesting because it is about poets who write poems on maps. It is such a delightful article, and free!
Résumé and the Article in pdf at the bottom of the page.
This article offers a selection of notable American poems about maps and grapples with their place in a century unique for the number, range, and quality of such poems. Though others preceded her, Elizabeth Bishop takes center-stage for “The Map” (1934; Winslow, 1935, 78–79), which recognizes that poets and cartographers create selective, generalized, and simplified views of the world. As the opening poem of her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection (1955), “The Map” continues to inspire other poets to critique the map’s spatial representation in terms of physical geography and intimacy, time and scale, politics and race, as well as science, art, and exploration. “The Map” was soon followed by two influential but very different map-poems: “Cartography” by Louise Bogan (1938) and “Map of My Country” by John Holmes (1939: Part I). In his subsequent collection Map of My Country (1943: Parts I–XII), Holmes argued that a poem maps a person’s identity better than its graphic cousins do. Yet other poets found inspiration and an analogue of their experience in a particular map, cartographer, or painter of maps. Since the 1960s, visual poets have shaped poems into maps of American locales, thus complementing more “conventional” uses of maps to trigger poetic memoirs of place. The sexual revolution has popularized the body-as-map metaphor prominent in Bogan’s “Cartography.” Since 1980, map-fixated collections have been on the rise, encouraging poets of the twenty-first century to consider what maps say about place, culture, history, ourselves.