Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Maps, Poems, and Environmental Writing

Poetry Map by Howard Horowitz

 By Marissa Erdelyi

Professor Howard Horowitz has been a professor of Geography at Ramapo College of New Jersey since 1982. Prior to joining the teaching staff, Professor Horowitz had several other work experiences in the environmental field, such as planting trees in national forests in Oregon. From these experiences, the professor turned his experiences into beautiful poetry.

When Professor Horowitz visited Professor Jan Barry Crumb’s Environmental Writing course on February 4th, he shared stories of his experience working in Oregon and with the Environmental Protection Agency, along with his three types of environmental writing. Professor Horowitz has written research reports and advocacy pieces, and also shared with us his love of writing poetry.

Professor Horowitz shared several pieces from his poetry book, Close to the Ground: One Treeplanter’s Geography. The poetry in the book is based on numerous experiences in tree planting. One poem Professor Horowitz wrote, “Gold Beach,” shares the inner thoughts of a tree planter while on the job. The poem shares all that goes into planting and what runs through the planter’s mind, such as when one gets to break for lunch.

One aspect of Professor Horowitz’s visit that really intrigued me were his poetry maps. The poetry maps shared were “Idaho,” which can be found in Close to the Ground, and “Manhattan,” which appeared in The New York Times. Poetry maps, for those who don’t know, are exactly what you would think. The poem is shaped as a map of the chosen area, and each landmark can be found in the poem where it would be found on any regular map. The amount of work that goes into making such a piece, especially one as detailed and accurate as “Manhattan,” is breathtaking. Professor Horowitz said that it took him nearly 18 months to perfect.

“Manhattan” is read as if the reader is taking a trip through the city. That’s the beauty of these poems. They take you on a trip through an area. Of course, there is an advantage to knowing the area, where you can see in your mind all the places mentioned. The works can still be enjoyed by anyone, as Professor Horowitz is so descriptive as he takes readers on such a beautiful walk.
It is also interesting to see how the city has changed since the poem was published in 1997. For example, it is written “Precambrian stocks bond the upper crust with solid foundations below the Trade Towers, Trinity Church and Wall Street.” While this was correct at the time of publication, the World Trade Center towers no longer stand tall in lower Manhattan. I think, because of this fact, and the vast amount of changes in Manhattan, it would be interesting to see an updated version of the poem. Especially since the 10-year anniversary of the publication of “Manhattan” is coming close.

Copies of Howard Horowitz’s work, such as a poster of “Manhattan” and Close to the Ground, can be found for purchase at    

No comments:

Post a Comment