Your places, your poems, our national story
Places of Poetry is open to all readers and writers. It aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales, celebrating the diversity, heritage and personalities of place.
The site is open for writers to pin their poems to places from 31st May to 4 October 2019. It will then be closed for new poems but will remain available for readers. We welcome writers of all ages and backgrounds. We want to gather as many perspectives on the places and histories of England and Wales.
Events and activities will be staged at our heritage partner sites across England and Wales to promote the project and generate new writing. Each site will host a Places of Poetry poet-in-residence, and we will promote and document all events on our website and via social media (@placesofpoetry). Please follow us and help us spread the word.
The Places of Poetry is led by the renowned poet Paul Farley and the academic Andrew McRae. It is based at the universities of Exeter and Lancaster, and generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England. It is underpinned by national partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society, and National Poetry Day.
Thank you for them! We will review all poems, but only reject those that are manifestly unsuitable (e.g. offensive, advertising, plagiarism). We accept poems in English and Welsh, and apologise that we are unable to publish other languages because we do not have the resources to review them. While the project’s focus is the creation of new poems, we are happy for users to post their favourite existing poems (as long as they are out of copyright). Unfortunately it will not be possible to edit poems once you have pinned them to the map.
Our partner organisations take no responsibility for any poems pinned to the map.
For centuries, authors have used poetry to reflect on local and national identities. One poet, Michael Drayton, published a 15,000-line epic of national description, Poly-Olbion (1612, 1622), that has inspired Places of Poetry. Poly-Olbion includes a unique set of county and regional maps, by the engraver William Hole, upon which our map is based. The poem itself uses places as points of entry into historical narratives, building in the process an extraordinary national vision.
Poly-Olbion only describes England and Wales. It was largely written in the years after King James VI of Scotland was installed as James I of England, proclaiming a vision of a united island kingdom. Like many of James’s subjects, however, Drayton was unconvinced, and never fulfilled his stated intention to extend his poem into the land of King James’s birth. Places of Poetry will follow Drayton’s model, and hopes to reflect in the process on the connections and tensions – then and now – between the constituent nations of the United Kingdom.
William Hole engraved thirty maps, each covering one or more counties. They are unlike any other maps of the period: highly decorative and iconographic, as though in dialogue with Drayton’s poem. Although they lack some of the specificity we may expect in a map, they are in fact careful and detailed in their iconography.
For our version, the coastline and major rivers had to be redrawn from scratch, so that they would fit over the modern Ordnance Survey map. While we wanted to retain the look and feel of Hole’s original, we could not hope to replicate his level of detail in a single map designed to be viewed on a computer screen. Therefore we replicated some details, and adapted his iconography (e.g. for forests, farming regions, etc.). We have also created icons to represent each of our thirteen Places of Poetry heritage partners
Our map will rapidly be filled with pins. If you would like to see it without them, please click here.
Working under the direction of Paul and Andrew, Places of Poetry has been created and will be managed by the following people. We are grateful to all of them.
- Project Coordinator: Vic Patch.
- Graphic designer: responsible for the map and design work, Ben Bowen, of Union Studio.
- Website design and construction: Andy Chapman, of 1010 Media.
- Student interns: Sarosha Byrne, Eleanor-Rose Gordon, Elis Morgan, Caitlin Jenkins.
- Support at the University of Exeter from: Communications and Marketing; Impact, Innovation and Business; Research Services; Legal Services.
- All those who offered advice and support in the development stage, including: Beth Mills, Adrian Cooper, Tim Dee, Jay Gascoigne, Gabriella Giannachi, Seth Honnor, Simon Timms, and Andrew’s partner on ‘The Poly-Olbion Project’, Philip Schwyzer.
- And our many friends at our funders and partner organisations.
We’re on facebook, twitter and instagram @placesofpoetry, and on email at email@example.com
Photo of Paul c Jemimah Kuhfield