A map of a garden can be made before the garden itself exists or after everything’s been planted. Having tried both strategies, I can say that it’s easier to do the mapping beforehand; straightening out measurements and transferring them accurately to the page after the garden already exists can be a difficult task. But then, this is what descriptive cartographers do on much larger scales, for cities, landforms, landscapes.
This week’s poems take as their subject someone from the “before” camp: Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park, among others. Olmstead wrote,
Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he has arranged for her shall realize his intentions.
We can forgive Olmsted, who died in 1903, the he’s and she’s. He’s right that whether they’re in a field returning to forest or a park just planted with roses and fruit trees, plants require time. (Fortunately for impatient gardeners, there exist annual plants, which grow happily and well on smaller timescales.)
Moriah L. Purdy, the author of the poems, is working on a manuscript that considers Olmsted’s work and borrows from his papers. About the quote, which serves as the epigraph for the manuscript, Moriah writes, ”I... more »more »
I learned the shape of our world from a map pulled down out of its cocoon above the chalkboard. It was a rainbow burst of color, each country with its own. This map also outlined each US state. As a six year old, this did not strike me as unbalanced, as if worldwide my little state of Ohio was viewed on par with China. They were both purple. I did not wonder why our states were delineated and China’s provinces were not. Should I have? I didn’t know China had provinces until college. Do... more »
I had just turned ten. The first day back from our summer break, our PE teacher asked us where we had vacationed. While waiting to be called on, I was holding the name Wayne National Forest in my mind and getting nervous about telling the class we went camping, yet again, about thirty minutes away from our home. We never had enough money to go farther. On my turn, I blurted out “Yellowstone!” It was too late to go back. more »
Jayme Russell is an MA candidate studying poetry at Ohio University. She is an assistant editor of Quarter After Eight and also works for New Ohio Review. She lives in Athens, Ohio. more »
Maps and poetry have long been getting together (although I’m guessing their counterparts, cartographers and poets, have sat down together with less frequency). To be more accurate, poetry has long been engaged with cartographic language, subjects, and metaphors. Work by Elizabeth Bishop and Eavan Boland, to cite just two examples, deals with maps.
As does our featured poetry for this week: three poems from Sarah Sarai that engage with mapping in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Sarai plays with the idea of locating oneself in “We’re always in a room.”, and offers instructions for a sort of elusive treasure hunt in “A Territory of the Miracle.” Read them here.
And about that parenthetical in the first paragraph: I’m declaring the second half of March Take a Cartographer to Lunch Month. They’re nice folks, in my experience, deeply interested in the world and having all sorts of ideas one might not encounter in poetical circles. Hey, and if you do this, let us know–we’d love to hear how things go.
Have ideas about Sarah Sarai’s poems? About maps and poetry? Do tell (preferably here, in the comments section).more »
The Maps Issue features jawdroppingly beautiful art by R. Justin Stewart. Read what the artist has to say, and leave comments below.
Inspired by the evolving interpretation of ideas, my work investigates how information is translated, transformed and conveyed across time and space. The complex process of interpretation through which civilizations and individuals alike make sense of information, is deeply rooted in a contextual belief structure. The changing of such structures greatly impacts the resulting understanding of ideas and information. My work presents the viewer with information that has been translated through an unfamiliar lens of visual display. The disconnect that arises between different presentations of identical information highlights the need for a historical and contextual investigation in order to make sense of the world we live in.
More on this issue’s pieces:
Guided is a Labyrinth game where a Twin Cities street map is carved 1/16″ deep and the Twin Cities Transit System routes are carved in 1/8″ deep, allowing a marble to roll through the transit routes but not the streets.
Bus structure 2am-2pm is a three-dimensional model of the Sunday Minneapolis / St. Paul public transit system, where the horizontal axes represent directional movement and the vertical represents time. The piece is... more »more »
Fringe seeks submissions for its fifth anniversary theme issue: MAPS.
Like the best writing, maps show us the world and also tell us about it. On a literal level, they tell us where we’re coming from, show us what we’re headed toward, and in the modern age, lay out the most efficient route to get us where we’re going. They can reveal far more than geographical truth — take Charles Joseph Minard’s map of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, which uses geography, temperature, time, and army size to tell the story, or the Beehive Collective’s graphic representing colonialism in the Andes, or our map of the human genome. Maps can be literal (atlases, highway maps, directions one stranger draws for another), virtual (Google Maps, GPS, tag clouds), and political (urban food deserts, “unspecified locations,” geographical privilege, red-state-blue-state maps). And of course, maps delineate the areas about which we know nothing, the spaces in which imagination has free reign—Here there be dragons.”
Submissions close January 5, 2011. Please follow our guidelines, and add “Maps” to your subject line.
Some sites to get you thinking about the possibilities for this theme:more »