Poetics of Emplacement – Map 1

Kirstin Hotelling Zona, SRPR Editor

This post is part of a series on SRPR’s ongoing and evolving conceptualization of the Poetics of Emplacement. What do we mean by Poetics of Emplacement? SRPR’s editor, contributing editors, staff members and friends share their thoughts here.

Contrary to popular belief, SRPR is not associated with Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, but was titled after the river in central Illinois that was itself purportedly named for the freshwater mussel shells used by the region’s Native Americans and early colonists as eating utensils—as spoons. I love the connections held in tact by our magazine’s name: waterways and words, poetry and sustenance, innovating and naming, observation and transformation. Such associations insist on the interconnectedness of language and place, of knowing intimately one’s surround because such knowing erodes not only one’s sense of self as disconnected but, just as importantly, upends one’s conception of place as equivalent to “environment,” that paltry misnomer that occludes the enmeshment of all vibrant matter and thus preserves anthropocentric paradigms in the very name of “saving the earth.”

When I came on as editor, I wanted to build upon SRPR’s dedication to place along these lines—to make it clear that a contemporary and theoretically informed recuperation of place-based poetics is hardly provincial. The “new” SRPR, then, is interested in a place-based poetic that is less concerned with regionalism’s attention to realism than to writing that leads us to the limits of our comfort zones so that these zones (what we might think of as aesthetic ecotones) are first of all exposed—made palpable and felt—so that we might experience the borders of our own known worlds as permeable, as sites of connection instead of sites of uncontestable difference.

In this way, SRPR’s current dedication to place may be better understood as an interest in emplacement—that is, of the many ways we are situated in and through language, the earth, and each other; in and through our histories and our blind spots; in and through our protests and complicities. As such, a poetics of emplacement is interested in borders and thus borderlands: beings and ways of being that are often overlooked.


Kirstin Hotelling Zona’s first collection of poems, Drift, was published in 2011. She is also the author of a book of criticism, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and May Swenson: The Feminist Poetics of Self-Restraint (Michigan UP), and editor of Dear Elizabeth: Five Poems and Three Letters from May Swenson to Elizabeth Bishop (Utah State UP). Kirstin lives with her husband and two children in Maine and Illinois, where she Co-Hosts PoetryRadio and edits SRPR. She is an associate professor of English at Illinois State University.

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One thought on “Poetics of Emplacement – Map 1

  1. Pingback: Reading. Text. Book. History. | Check Out the Spoon River Poetry Review Blog!

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