Letting poems take their place in the world

When it comes to poems inspired by a certain area or landscape, that have a story to tell about that spot, being able to connect the poem to its place adds an extra, vital dimension.  I often go on walks with a site-specific poem in my pocket. I’ve taken U A Fanthorpe’s ‘Stanton Drew’ to the eponymous stone circles south of Bristol, and, as she urges, listened to the past’s long pulse. I’ve sat on Ted Hughes’ memorial stone near Taw Head on Dartmoor to recover from all the tussock-jumping required to get there and read aloud his wonderful litany, ‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’. I’ve wept over Eliot’s Four Quartets in East Coker churchyard.

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Stanton Drew stone circles

Then there are the poems we write ourselves. It has be be said that going around sellotaping poems to lamp posts and telegraph poles isn’t practical. But now you can pin them to an online map of England and Wales, which is another, less polluting way of letting them take their place in the world.

Places of Poetry is led by poet Paul Farley and Professor Andrew McRae. The project is open to readers and writers of all ages and backgrounds, with the aim of prompting reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales through creative writing. Writers are invited to pin their poems to places on the map from 31st May to 4th October 2019, after which date it will be closed to new poems but remain available for readers. 

The site will also contain news about events and activities to promote the project and generate new writing. You can also follow Places of Poetry via social media (@placesofpoetry).

Places of Poetry is based at Lancaster and Exeter Universities, and funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

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Ted the border collie at Ted Hughes’ memorial stone, Dartmoor

 

Walking Dartmoor on World Mental Health Day

As writers as diverse as Simon Armitage, Samuel Coleridge, Charles Dickens, J K Rowling, Rebecca Solnit, Edward Thomas, Virginia Woolf and William Wordsworth attest, walking is vital to the creative process. I too have found this to be the case.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. It was gloriously sunny here in the West Country, so I packed up some victuals, my map and the dog, and drove down to Buckfast Abbey on the south-eastern edge of Dartmoor. From there I walked up through Hembury Woods to the iron-age hillfort on the balding crown of the hill, before descending to the River Dart, winding my way back to edge of the woods and retracing my steps through the lanes to the Abbey.

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In the poem Wintering, Sylvia Plath describes the jars of honey from her hives as ‘six cat’s eyes in the wine cellar/wintering in a dark without window/at the heart of the house’. I carry these words in my head at this time of year, as I try to build up a stock of remembered sunlight to get me through the too short, too dark days of winter.