Colorado College Professor of English David Mason ’78 recently published a collection of essays titled “Voices, Places.” The book explores surprising connections in geography and time, considering writers who traveled, who emigrated or were exiled, and who often shaped the literature of their homelands.
Mason, himself a seasoned traveler, writes of other travelers such Patrick Leigh Fermor, Bruce Chatwin, Joseph Conrad, and Herodotus, and of writers as far flung as Omar Khayyam, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, James Joyce, and Les Murray. Near the end of the book Mason turns to his own native region, the American West, and considers the work of Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, Robinson Jeffers, Belle Turnbull, and Thomas McGrath.
Two quotes in the opening of book set the geographic and literary terrain. The first is from Seamus Heaney: “If you have a strong first world and a strong set of relationships then in some part of you you are always free, you can walk the world because you know where you belong, you have some place to come back to,” and the second is from Wendell Berry, paraphrased by Wallace Stegner: “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”
Mason’s essays are about familiarity and estrangement, the pleasure and knowledge readers can gain by engaging with writers’ lives, their travels, their trials, and the homes they make for themselves.
“How are voices like places?” he asks. “They move through us as we move through them.” An early review from Publishers Weekly states, “This special collection leaves readers with a sense of wanderlust and a refreshing new lens through which to view literature and travel.”
Mason, who was poet laureate of Colorado from 2010 to 2014, is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently “Sea Salt” and “Davey McGravy.” He also has written a memoir, “News from the Village,” and a verse-novel, “Ludlow,” which won the Colorado Book Award in 2007, was named Best Poetry Book of the year by the Contemporary Poetry Review, and was featured on the PBS NewsHour.