“Letter from a Distant Land” is an epistolary poem of 163 lines in three stanzas. The title is derived from a quotation (which Philip Booth borrows as an epigraph) from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854). In this classic of American literature, Thoreau describes his adventure of living at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, between 1845 and 1847.
In a brief passage, Thoreau, speaking to other writers, declares that part of a writer’s work should be a simple account of his or her life, “some such as he would send to his kindred from a distant land.” Booth makes images of Walden and nature central to his poem, and “Letter from a Distant Land” is Booth’s response to Thoreau’s challenge. Booth measures who and where he is in relation to who and what he aspires to be; Thoreau and Walden are his yardsticks.
To understand Booth’s effort, it is necessary to know that in Walden Thoreau sought to discover the nature of true being, the essence of life. By withdrawing from society and living as a recluse, Thoreau lived in harmony with nature. As a result, he came to understand new spiritual truths; he discovered the oneness of creation and its manifold beauty. His message in Walden is that humanity needs to rediscover that core of value and meaning.
The first stanza of “Letter from a Distant Land” is dominated by the image of nature, the pleasant world in which the poet lives...
(The entire section is 527 words.)