The following lists some shining examples of literature which use place as a central thematic, structural or topical element. Please make suggestions for additions in the comments.

  1. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek- Annie Dillard
  2. Annals of the Former World- John McPhee
  1. A Sand County Almanac- Aldo Leopold
  2. Olive Kitteridge- Elizabeth Strout
  1. The Day the Lady Died- Frank O'Hara
  2. The Secret of Light- James Wright


  1. OK, its about death and not really about a place and certainly not about one of MY places, but ... shortly after we were married we visited the graveyard in the sand hills of Nebraska where my grandfather is buried and read Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"out loud and wept over my dead dirt farm ancestors. Instead of being about a charming English churchyard, to me this poem always evokes that graveyard surrounding by cow pasture and my heritage deep in the American midwest.

    Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
    The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

    The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
    The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
    The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
    No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

  2. I have spent a bit of time casually hiking in northern Europe and it seems that trails there are not made ... they just are. The poem "Ballad of the Paths in Vastmanland" by Lars Gustafsson describes that sense beautifully.

    ... That's the whole
    point of being a path: it came to be made
    long ago. Who made it? Charcoal burners, fisherfolk,
    women with skinny arms gathering firewood?
    The outlaws, shysters, gray as the moss--
    still in their dreams the blood of fratricide
    reddens their hands. Autumn hunters on the tracks
    of pointer dogs with barks clear as frost?
    All of them, none of them. We make the path together,
    you, too, on a stormy day, on earth,
    be the hour late or early:
    we write the paths and they stick,
    and the paths are more clever than us,
    and they know all the things we wanted to know.

  3. Thanks for these great posts, Donna. I love the path poem! I love the idea of taking a physical place and considering all of the various and myriad ways human lives that have traversed it. Wendell Berry has a book like this, one town, may stories. Olive Kitteridge plays with this as well.

    Love the elegy as well.