I got lost in the map of an imaginary country.
The Baedeker told me to look for the palace of government
and I found my great-grandmother
renouncing the head of a state that was never hers.
This is how “The Direction of Escape,” a poem by Sonya Taaffe published at online zine Not One of Us, begins. It is a poem very much about the current moment. Taaffe says, “The title is a line of Le Guin’s. The stories it contains are real.”
I trained as a historian of the French Third Republic, so Kory Olson’s The Cartographic Capital: Mapping Third Republic Paris, 1889-1934 (Liverpool University Press, 4 May), which “looks at how government presentations of Paris and environs change over the course of the Third Republic (1889-1934),” would have very much been up my alley twenty years ago. “The government initially seemed to privilege an exclusively positive view of the capital city and limited its presentation of it to land inside the walled fortifications. However, as the Republic progressed and Paris grew, technology altered how Parisians used and understood their urban space.” Amazon
Chris Barrett’s Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety (Oxford University Press, 22 May) is about “the many anxieties provoked by early modern maps and mapping in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A product of a military arms race, often deployed for security and surveillance purposes, and fundamentally distortive of their subjects, maps provoked suspicion, unease, and even hostility in early modern Britain. […] This volume explores three major poems of the period—Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612, 1622), and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667, 1674)—in terms of their vexed and vexing relationships with cartographic materials.” Amazon, iBooks