Landscape as poem: Poem as landscape. Space, place, and the visual in the poetry of Kamau Brathwaite and Susan Howe
Reckin, Anna Alexandra
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This dissertation shifts attention from "the figures" in landscape to what is in the [back]ground: arguing that landscape poetry may itself provide a critique of representation. Combining cross-disciplinary understandings of the term "landscape" as site of mediation rather than object of a gaze with readings of postmodern poetry from the Americas that foreground presentation and performativity and material textuality, it shows how contemporary experimental poets make powerful cultural interventions by writing landscapes, arguing that they do so by using as a primary source of metaphoricity spatial paradigms that are inclusive of the natural world but also based on actual geo-politics and colonial and post-colonial history. The two poets discussed here, Kamau Brathwaite and Susan Howe, are distinctive in terms of their experimentation in form, their unusually wide range of sonic and visual iconicities, and also their prominent and highly developed theories of process and praxis, constituting a textual politics that in both cases is inseparable from form and from content. I argue here that many if not most of these strategies are explicitly based on spatial paradigms; in particular, by providing stagings for congruence and/or contradiction between "the space of the page," and geo-physical and geo-political spaces. As they do this, they deconstruct and re-present thematic and formal binaries--nature-culture, public history-private history, prose-poetry, the academic and the creative--while also problematizing polarized versions of issues in gender, race, and ethnicity. The readings here of Brathwaite and Howe's work are examples of what I propose as a "spatialized poetics," a topic explored more generally in the introduction and first chapter.