Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Power of Place

Place is a very important part of my writing, even if I don't specify a place in a poem, it is usually rooted in a very specific place. Place is an important part of my identity as a poet.

I feel sad for places I have lost - the fields near my parent's home that are now covered with houses, though one of the fields remains and now has a nice wildlife pond, this doesn't make up for the lost area. The new hotel and golf course near there too. Many similar lost areas in and around Edinburgh.

Places that will forever remain in my memory as they were years ago, because I haven't revisited and am indeed very unlikely to - the village in Cornwall I lived in briefly, the village in Malawi that I lived in for two years. These places must have changed, perhaps beyond recognition.

I feel the incremental loss of rainforests across the world, though I've never been to a rainforest. The area around Victoria Falls which once was rainforest, was already really just a small woodland when I visited though I could almost feel the memory of the rainforest there.


The Power of Place for Write On Wednesday

14 comments:

Nathan said...

One of the saddest things is realizing a place you love now exists only in memory. But at least there is memory.

Andi said...

Yeah, I'm with you and Nathan . . . sometimes the most painful thing about returning to a place is that it isn't your place any longer.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I recently went back to the Lincolnshire village where I was born and lived until I was eighteen. It is now almost a suburb of Lincoln itself. All the open and secret places where we used to go as children are gone and I felt sad that I had returned. The lane where I used to walk on Sunday evenings with my father looking for wildflowers is now a metalled road with housing either side. Such is progress.

jem said...

A thought-provoking and true post. I think place and time compete equally in my writing, and when I re-read an older piece I can often be taken straight back to the when and where of that moment.

Antoine Cassar said...

I totally agree with the importance of place in poetry (and thus in one's everyday outlook on life). A poem without place is often either claustrophobic -perhaps on purpose, of course, but in that case place becomes important for its very absence-, or of such philosophical quality that it refers to all possible and real places at once. For a poem (or pretty much anything) to be universal, it must be local at the same time.

Come to think of it, what would the first human beings have used as metaphors without place?

Thanks Crafty Green Poet, you have re-kindled a long latent discussion within the creative half of my head... (let us take 'head' as a metonym, poetry of course involves as much flesh, bone and spirit as it does the forests and jungles* of the mind.)

(* I have just realised that even intangible places we describe by using elements of place).

Antoine Cassar said...

On the universality of poetry of place, I forgot to mention Whitman's Salut au monde, one of my favourite poems in any language. Of course, Whitman left out a lot of places as he was exploring his atlas - no mention of Scotland, for example ;) -, yet you cannot help but admire the sheer broadness and generosity of his expression. No poet (or traveller for that matter) could possibly dream of covering all places under the sun!

Best regards,

Antoine Cassar.
http://muzajk.info

Raven's Wing Poetry said...

I know what you mean about place...there are places I used to go that now only exist in memory too. It's easy to forget how much those places have shaped you until you find out that they are gone.

-Nicole

anno said...

Change may be an inevitable fact of life, but your post is a reminder that if we value something, we might have to work to keep it. Beautifully written.

Sorlil said...

I can relate to that, I only just realised this last year how important place is in my poetry, often the catalyst for a poem.

Becca said...

The loss of natural places is one of the hardest for me to bear, and I see it far too often.

Your poetry is always often very place oriented, especially the natural places.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful reflection in Write On Wedesday :)

gingatao said...

Real sense of place is one of the hardest things to capture in writing, I find. There is a way of channelling the spirit of a place through the words but it has to be a deep personal connection. It is one of the things I treasure most when I find it someone else's writing because I find it so difficult in my own.

Janice Thomson said...

You have really nailed this Juliet. How often we go back to some place and all that is left is a memory. Though we must try to live and breath change it still stings us when we are confronted with a loss. If it was replaced with something equally as enchanting perhaps the sting would not be so bad - but it never is. Perhaps therein lies the lesson to be learned.

Jeanie said...

I like what you wrote about places you visited long ago -- like the Cotswold village. I think of those periodically -- places I traveled with my parents when I was so very small; parts of England I discovered when my mom and I went there after my college graduation, and some lovely villages in Massachusetts I discovered once on a vacation. They were an accidental find and such a good one. My grandmother's house, where I spent lots of my growing-up time, is now a field. That's one of those memory places.

Mistlethrush said...

A worthy post - I completely agree.
I think place (habitat) is vital in wildlife poetry. Creatures and their habitats are so closely related (they've sometimes evolved together) that you can't realistically write about one without the other.