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A Shifting Sense of Place

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

by Jeremy Richards on Poetry Foundation


In his classic book Art as Experience John Dewey writes, “At every moment the living creature is exposed to dangers from its surroundings, and at every moment, it must draw upon something in its surroundings to satisfy its needs.” Dewey theorized that all art is metabolized through experience and our immediate environment, “not externally but in the most intimate way.” In their anthologized visions of place, classic poets could stroll through an orchid garden, stumble past a church, or kneel in the grass and feel sated and grounded. But today, where is the poet’s sense of place? Itinerant, polluted, untethered? Tweeted and Foursquared? Or is it still Romantic, still finding solace in nature, tripping over the transcendent on every morning stroll? I recently interviewed a few American poets with a distinct sense of place—particular to their surroundings but informed by their historical, literary, and political contexts—to find out where they are and how they see it.



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