An Analysis of Maps by Doug Hoekstra

Carrying maps we move
through battlegrounds and trails,
roadways, displays and
museums built of alabaster
on swamps in cities marked with
European names

Following blue lines, red circles
street signs and highway markers
compass points and scale
measuring distance between places
and distant constellations
that will one day disappear

Slipping into another form
catching glimpses of the future
cherished and held in
our collective past, pressed
between magnetic pages
reframed and then…reclaimed

Pulling on my sleeve, he’s
always looking up, always,
even when I lose my way
in all cardinal directions
and happen upon a clearing
beyond my imagination

Where lightning grows quiet and
waterfalls rise and
colors disguise and
the reversal of time
senseless with meaning
–– perfectly cast together


Stanza One

Maps is a poetry in which I believe is a metaphor for a journey which is the purpose of a map- to help navigate people from their current location to their destination. Initially it takes us through battlegrounds and trails which is a juxtaposition. This juxtaposition is contrasted to be active and passive. Then, the adventure softens up through the third line of ‘roadways, displays and museums built of alabaster’ This soft imagery of beauty is stark in the sense that the write lets us know that it is built on swamps. This is a poignant metaphor with historical connotations. Since the battleground signifies war, and alabaster signifies the archaic and we know that these cities have ‘European Names’. We can then infer that this journey is a walk through history.

Stanza Two

The next stanza is a walk in the present. We can infer this through the use of the neutral and simple descriptions. The red and blue lines are centred around public transport maps such as train stations and subways. In the fourth, fifth and sixth line of the poem, we know that this person yearns for something more. The line ‘measuring distance between places and distant constellations that will one day disappear’. It highlights that this person is a day dreamer comparing his gaze to something that is far away.

Stanza Three

The third stanza embodies the message of the poem. The ‘slipping into another form’ phrase highlights the variety of maps . The phrase catching glimpses into the future suggests that maps are for places we haven’t been yet. Hence the catching glimpses of the future. It is evident that we are unaware of it. This is then contrasted with the past places we have been and treasured so that we’ve pressed the magnetic pages, reframed and reclaimed it.

Stanza Four and Five

The penulitmate and final stanza gets personal. We get a sense of youth or someone young. This is infered through the line which states that the person is short enouhgh to pull on the subject sleeve and is always looking up. More importantly, it seems to be something similar to a promise. It states that the should the subject ever lose way and reach a place (clearing) beyond imagination.

In essence, the journey will fit perfectly together in a place where lightening grows quiet, waterfalls rise and colors disguise and there is a reversal of time. This can be looked at in two ways:

a) Positively: Through an idyllic nature-centred lens
b) Negatively: The journey becomes a place where what is hoped and imagined is contradictory.

So this begs the question of whether the map is a journey of the past, present and future?

What do you think the map signifies?

Thank you for reading!


One response to “An Analysis of Maps by Doug Hoekstra”

  1. […] An Analysis of Maps by Doug Hoekstra […]

    Liked by 1 person

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