‘The ssshh of sprays on all the little lawns’: imagining the post-war American suburbs

Gill, J. (2013) ‘The ssshh of sprays on all the little lawns’: imagining the post-war American suburbs. In: Dines, M. and Vermeulen, T. (eds.) New Suburban Stories. Series: Bloomsbury studies in the city. Bloomsbury Academic: London ; New York, pp. 111-122. ISBN 9781472510938 (doi: 10.5040/9781472543745.ch-008)

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This chapter examines the often-overlooked contribution made by poetry to the establishment and maintenance of what we might call the suburban imaginary. Focusing in particular on the lyric poetry of the post-war American suburbs and drawing on work by a number of writers, I argue that poetry has played a critical – by which I mean vital and interrogative – role in the construction of suburban experience and the dissemination of its meanings. By way of illustration and case study, I take a number of poems about suburban gardens and lawn care spanning the 1950s and 1960s including Howard Nemerov’s ‘Suburban Prophecy’, Hollis Summers’s ‘The Lawnmower’, Mona Van Duyn’s ‘Notes from a Suburban Heart’, William Stafford’s ‘Elegy’ and Richard Wilbur’s ‘To An American Poet Just Dead’. Each evokes the peculiar topography of the contemporary suburbs and, more importantly, its historical, social and discursive parameters.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gill, Professor Jo
Authors: Gill, J.
College/School:College of Arts
Publisher:Bloomsbury Academic

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