Places of Poetry: ‘your places, your poems, our national story’

As maps can be relevant to pretty much any subject, we are very fortunate to be able to support some amazing projects – and Places of Poetry is no exception!

Have you ever explored the outdoors and found yourself inspired by the beauty around you? Or have you found yourself poring over a map and had a place name spark your imagination? From iconic historical sites to places of personal significance, the Places of Poetry project invites you to write poems and pin them to their map!

Places of Poetry is asking us all to think about the history and environment around us. Through creative writing, the aim of the project is to celebrate the diversity, heritage and personalities of places across England and Wales to prompt reflection on our national and cultural identities. And of course, no project with a sense of place would be complete without an OS map!

The map consists of two layers: an artistic map, based on decorative seventeenth-century county maps, and a second layer of Ordnance Survey data, allowing users to zoom in to a high level of detail.

Places of Poetry is led by the poet and Radio 4 regular Paul Farley and the academic Professor Andrew McRae and is based at the universities of Exeter and Lancaster. We are a national partner alongside The Poetry Society and National Poetry Day.

Inspired by the great epic poem of English and Welsh national description, Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612-22), Farley and Professor McRae want to use crowdsourcing to generate multiple poetic perspectives on the significance of places 400 years after Drayton composed his poem.Professor McRae said: “Poetry has been used across the centuries to reflect on places and their histories. We’re using modern technology to reinvigorate this model, and we hope that as many people as possible get involved. We are excited to see where people pin their poems, and what they say about the places that matter to them.”

The project will be promoted through a programme of events at heritage sites this summer, each supported by a poet-in-residence. Locations and poets will be: Avebury and Stonehenge (Will Harris), Ely Cathedral (Jen Hadfield), Caernarvon Castle (Gillian Clarke), The Roman Baths (Neil Rollinson), River Severn (Isabel Galleymore), Big Pit National Coal Museum (Jo Bell), Wordsworth Trust (Daljit Nagra), Byker Community Trust (Sean O’Brien), Peak District National Park (Sarah Howe), Hadrian’s Wall (Kayo Chingonyi), Sherwood Forest (Jack Underwood) and The Kia Oval (Zaffar Kunial).

Downloadable materials are available on the project website to enable individuals and organisations to get involved. Developed in association with The Poetry Society, the toolkits have been adapted for writers of different ages and levels of experience, heritage sites, arts organisations and schools.

The Places of Poetry website will be live from 31 May to 4 October. More details are available at www.placesofpoetry.org.uk.

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