The Blog of John Hewitt

Write in a new place – 31p31d

This is day 4 of 31 poems in 31 days.

Poetry of Place

Bowling for Poets

Bowling for Poets

Now that we have moved from personal poems into poems about the world around us, it is time to explore poetry of place. Poets have memorialized places in verse for about as long as there have been poems. In a place poem, the poet attempts to capture the spirit of a particular place, and perhaps use that place to reflect upon either the events in their life or the events that have taken place at that location.

Things to remember when writing a poem about a place:

  • The more vividly and distinctly you describe the place you are writing about, the easier it will be to draw your reader into any other themes that you have in mind.
  • Themes that arise out of the description will be the most likely to take root. Look for details that blend well with your thoughts.
  • The more meaningful a place is to you, the more likely it is that you will write about it with passion.
  • Sometimes it is more interesting to look for a location you don’t know so well and imagine a history for it.
  • You are a poet, not a reporter. Don’t feel as if can’t change details. Just be aware that if someone with knowledge of the place reads it and catches the differences, it might annoy them. Barbara Kingsolver writes books that are set in my hometown of Tucson, but she often makes up details. This can sometimes take me out of her stories.
  • When you can, it is a good idea to actually be at the location you are writing about when you write about it. Plenty of poems have been written after the fact, however. Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey was written five years later, and it may be the most famous place poem in all of literature.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Get out of the house and write in a new place. Write about the place you choose to go to. Don’t just rely on what you see. Describe the smells, the tastes and the sounds if you can. Try to give your readers a full picture of the place you choose.