In the twentieth century no form of experience has been more frequently taken up by poets eager to capture both the openness and fluidity of life and the aesthetic closure of an artwork than that of a walk. Examining the walk poem, Roger Gilbert contends that at its heart is the "desire to keep what we have lived." What is the appeal of the walk poem for modern American poets? According to Gilbert, it provides a ready-made frame within which to explore the full range of individual consciousness as it responds to and reflects on the world immediately at hand. The unstructured, plotless character of the walk allows poets to move freely from place to place, image to image, thought to thought. Suggesting that the walk poem strikes a compromise between the American obsession with process or movement and more traditionally mimetic concerns, Gilbert shows how it enables the poet to apprehend the world as horizon rather than landscape. Through perceptive and extended analyses of walk poems by Frost, Stevens, Williams, Roethke, Bishop, O'Hara, Snyder, Ammons, and Ashbery, he uncovers a spectrum of representational strategies for transforming passing experiences into the more lasting substance of poetry. Walks in the World addresses anyone who takes poetry seriously.
Originally published in 1991.
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"Walks in the World will certainly influence the discussion of American poetry for years to come."--Lee Edelman, Tufts University