Someone’s Road Home: Questions of Home and Exile in American Narrative Poetry

1267“Make yourself up a cheering song of how / Someone’s road home from work this once was,” wrote Robert Frost in his quest-poem, “Directive”. The “road home” has always been a central theme in American culture; where it cannot be found, artists have often had to resort to “making it up”, in songs and poems that are not always exclusively “cheering”. In this book Gregory Dowling examines how this theme has found expression in a vigorous tradition of American narrative poetry. He analyses major works by Longfellow and Melville from the nineteenth century, revealing the need for a revaluation of their poetry. He shows how the narrative poems of Frost offered an alternative but equally vital tradition to that established by the other major writers of the Modernist period. He argues the case for considering even Wallace Stevens as contributing to the narrative tradition. The book concludes with chapters on two contemporary authors, Anthony Hecht and Vikram Seth, proving that narrative poetry remains a vital force in literature today.