A Space Filled with Moving

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Maggie Anderson’s A SPACE FILLED WITH MOVING is a three-part collection of quintessentially American poems. These poems provide glimpses of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and other regions; images of plants, animals, and natural features provide a tightly woven texture to the works. Some of them seem as exact as snapshots. But these landscapes are psychic as well as actual, and the interior geography reveals itself beneath the surface features.

The three parts, “Where I Live,” “Long Story,” and “A New Life,” trace the interdependence between the poet and the places she comes from and inhabits. The poems are clear and accessible. In form they are mostly free verse (although there is one sonnet, a striking portrait of a hill woman). The poems slip back and forth easily from the personal to the natural world, leaving the impression of each on the other. These poems are “natural” in a number of senses: They are free from ornament, they are of and about nature, they are direct, and they follow their own organic development.

As the title suggests, the collection as a whole leaves an impression of motion. The poems have an internal energy that seems nature-driven; they recall Emerson and Thoreau, but Anderson’s is more of a central American, twentieth century transcendentalism. The poems depict a lot of traveling: walks, drives, rides. Sometimes the point of arrival is beyond the edge of the natural: “Who would have thought the afterlife would/look so much like Ohio?” begins “Beyond Even This.”

These poems find similarities between particular and abstract, here and there, known and unknown. They are quietly persuasive in their findings.