As I browsed the shelves yesterday in the London Review of Books bookshop (one of my favourite places, but that is another story) the Spring edition of Poetry Review magazine featuring ‘The Poetry of Place’ caught my eye. The discussion in the editorial was about what we mean by place – isn’t everywhere a ‘place’? It has come to mean more than just a location though, used in this way, in the context of poetry and other art forms such as painting and maybe photography. Certainly to me it means ‘spirit of place’. That is what I wrote about recently for the blog Under a Grey Sky when asked to write about my paintings and how landscape influenced me. It is certainly the basis of all my art work and photography (I have touched on this in my earlier post on ‘Homeland’) and I am sure many other artists and photographers would agree.
There also seems to be a whole rapidly expanding genre of literature generally which could be called a literature of place, encompassing so called ‘nature writing‘ and psychogeographical writing, and often rather prosaically dumped in the ‘Travel’ or ‘Travel Writing’ sections of bookshops. Some of my favourite books could to me be better called literature of place. ‘The Idea of North’ by Peter Davidson would be one. It is part of a series called ‘Topographics’ published by Reaktion Books which according to the publisher
“features new writing about place. …..distinct from travel literature, the books in this series do not depend on a journey to supply a plot. Instead they mingle analysis with anecdote, criticism with original expressive writing, to explore the creative collision between physical space and the human mind.”
That last phrase (my italics) seems a good summing up of what place means to me. How about you?
- ArtsBeat: Peter Whitfield Talks About the History of Travel Literature (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Secret London: photos of lost rivers and abandoned London (greatwen.com)