Editor John Freeman's first collection of poetry, Maps, is both global and deeply personal. Pieces like "Sarejevo (Summer 2016)" are examples in miniature, where Freeman and a nameless companion walk down a street in Bosnia that he doesn't know but she knows all too well, since it was the site of a near-death experience. The poem's title suggests a certain exoticism, especially for an American like Freeman, but the piece is really about how geography stays in human memory, even as the actual physical landscape shifts and alters. "You're here; you survived;/ and you're there," he notes in the poem's climax, an idea that runs throughout most of the collection.
Nearly every poem in Maps is a threnody, either to a person or a place. But they also follow attempts at reclaiming that loss. "I went back to the city we visited" begins "Return," while "Oslo" starts with: "I've been here/ before." Freeman's characters are always circling back, trying to make sense of the spaces they once inhabited, as if in the hope they will make sense of the people missing. The two major tragedies in Maps are a divorce and the death of a parent, both of which appear in many of the poems. It's never clear whether these events are autobiographical, and they are universal enough that he may simply be taking different angles at the two most important aspects of life: love and death. Either way, Maps beautifully captures the geography of both. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.