This exhibit (on view during the summer and fall of 2012) featured the work of six poets who taught or studied at Cornell and whose work has garnered substantial recognition among critics and peers. Each poem takes the physical location of the Cornell campus or its natural surroundings as a vantage point from which to examine both the outer and the inner life, mapping the metaphysical borderland that merges personal experience with human consciousness on a universal scale. To quote A.R. Ammons, the poems are examples of “poetry as a local action implying the broadest canopy.”
The selection samples a half-century of writing, from the 1950s to the present, a period of great change at Cornell as it was everywhere. But though ways of perceiving and questioning the self and society took radical new directions, the natural beauty and geographical isolation of Tompkins County continued to offer small but inspiring discoveries: “hidden falls,” “windrows of pine,” “a landscape of layers,” any of which might trigger transformative thought and language as the poets sought to locate themselves in the world, and in the process create, as Ammons’s wrote, “an apprehended place” that, once visited, might be inscribed as deeply in the reader’s memory as any actual gorge or lake.