Key parts to the Peddling Poetry Project are finally gently sliding into place; firstly we have some fabulous cafes along the trail who have agreed to host the Stamping Stations. Then we have a selection of poems from the 600 posted into the Poetry Boxes, 150 or so have been carefully selected and geotagged ripe for the hunt. Then there are 5000 freshly printed poetry passports (in blue!) ready to be distributed to bright new poets across North Devon. Each stamping station will have some for you to pick up, plus many schools in North Devon will be supplied with a passport for each child. And finally we have The Tarka Trail itself, 20 miles of stunning scenery from woodlands to heaths, from estuary to nature reserves full of birds, air and sky.
The project went live on May day 2019, designed to coincide with the Beaford exhibition at the Burton gallery called HERE. But this special date reminds me of an old poem recited to me beside a standing stone in Kent. I wonder if this same magic of words in wild places will wash into this poetry project?
The fair maid, upon the first of May
shall walk into the field
upon the the first of May
and wash in the dew
of the white thorn tree
and ever after handsome be
What success might look like is inevitably many fold so from the outset we designed a layered approach to engagement.
Firstly, some families may just enjoy stamping their passports. I just know this will be fantastic fun in itself and kind of wish my kids were a little younger!! But inside each poetry passport are instructions taking you on to the next steps with details of how to hunt out the geotagged poems.
The final major step and the real test of the whole project / concept will be new poems pinned to the trail. I am certain they will, especially with these ingredients of Tarka Trail, North Devon landscape and a new digital toy of secret poetry, will it be just too hard to resist (we hope so!)
How many we will become involved and how many new poems will be pinned, only time will tell. All the stamping stations are now in situ and ready to go, all that needs to happen now is you.
Fingers crossed, and if you want to know when new poems have been pinned to the trail, then follow the Poetry Pin Twitter feed. For each new poem will generate a short snippet of poem on posting.
Finally, a quick thanks to Beaford team who have been un-ending in their support and energy with this project. One of the Stamping Stations is situated at The Burton in Bideford Gallery, who are also hosting the HERE exhibition listed above. A fabulous insight into the recent worlds captured on film by James Ravilious and Roger Deakins.
It is the depth of winter now but plans have begun in earnest to properly develop the North Devon Poetry Pin trail (The Tarka Trail) for spring and summer 2019. The light touch of geolocating text has always been a key ingredient for Poetry Pin projects, the ‘leave no trace’ mantra is well established and Poetry Pin has always embraced this ethos whole heartedly. So when poems are geotagged and then searched, the only impressions on the landscape should be the footprints of the inquisitive. There is no need for more as we all carry the tech required in our pockets, and as Poetry Pin is powered by web app technology it is easy to access and begin the poetry hunt.
‘So when poems are geotagged and then searched, the only impressions on the landscape should be the footprints of the inquisitive.’
But curiously this very light touch, with no trail signs or notices to catch your attention is also its weakness. Last summer the Poetry Boxes (blog link) caught walkers and riders eyes and they penned over 600 poems, but the boxes were there in full view, out in the field, neatly tethered to benches and grabbing everyones attention. When this ‘sign-post’ is removed, how do you draw attention to the project? How do you go about raising the profile and promoting all these amazing poems people have written, and secondly encouraging more to write and geotag their new poems to the trail?
Initial investigations last year revealed that signage along the trail (which goes against the above I know but we did ask) would not be allowed, the land management team of North Devon are having trouble keeping up with their core tasks, never mind me adding to them. Also, Beaford Arts, the main project partners have signed up to Plastic Free North Devon campaign (which is brilliant and we are totally behind) but this would create a problem too when it comes to welding plastic Poetry Pin logos to the trail or commissioning vinyl banners for the trail gates.
so there will be stamping stations along the trail too
So whats the solution and how will we get people hunting out the poetry, well with Poetry Passports of course! We have been wrestling with this over the winter and think the Poetry Passports might be just the ticket (almost literally!) The concept runs like this, create Poetry Passport booklets – lots of them to be handed out for free along the trail, cycle hire, information centres, local schools and of course the cafes on the trail. Of course passports need stamping, so there will be stamping stations along the trail too, most likely in the cafes which are already keen to support the venture. Inside the booklets there will be simple instructions to access the Poetry Pin poems and also how to add your new compositions to the trail, we may include space for notes and new poems aswell.
‘ . . . responding to landscape within the landscape is the gallery of the future’
We won’t know if all this will actually transfer the audience from the analogue of physical poetry boxes to the more ethereal digital system of Poetry Pin, but there is only one way to find out, and thats to get on with it. Which is exactly what we’ll be doing over the coming months and since we’ve just received confirmation of financial support from the Arts Council England we will get the opportunity to deliver. This means that we will be running more Peddling Poetry Rambling workshops, the passports will be printed and distributed and Mr Jelley will be along the trail to entice passing riders to engage and respond.
The details of new workshops will be promote primarily through the brilliant Beaford Arts web page and portal, so check here to find out more. So spread the word and get writing to tag poetry to place along the Tarka Trail it is open right now, yes right now – open this link on your phone then click allow for the GPS to work and go hunt and tag poetry along the trail. The greatest promotion is always word of mouth and we are passionate that writing words and responding to landscape within the landscape is the gallery of the future.
During August and September there were ten Beaford Poetry Boxes tethered along the trail, each had just a book and a pencil inside and asked for walkers to ‘draw read or write’ within. By the end of the eight weeks over six hundred poems had been added and some two hundred and fifty sketches too. Each week Mr Jelley would check the boxes to keep them looking perfect but also geotagged a selection to the poetry pin channel – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info.
As I write there are over one hundred and fifty poems pinned along this trail, and the only way to read them is to walk (or ride) there. So a quick tutorial for those who haven’t used Poetry Pin – firstly open https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info on your phone, each poem has been geotagged roughly to the spot they were written, travel to this spot and they will reveal when in close proximity. If you are inspired you can also pin a new poem, just click ‘add poem’ and then write your words, but remember when you click submit these words will be geotagged and pinned to the very location you are stood. It is immediate so the next poetry hunter can come and read your words.
But one thing which made this trail different to previous outings of the Poetry Boxes, aside from the geotagging to Poetry Pin, was that each tin had an image taken in North Devon around the 1970’s and 80’s. These were made available from the Beaford Arts archives who commissioned Mr Jelley to run this project.
The idea was multifold, firstly it was a new way for this archive to be shared with a new audience, they would also hopefully seed some great poetry, and connect with local recent history at the same time. By the end of the two months, and judging by the interactions and signatures in the tins, over three thousand people had connected with the project and the Beaford Archive images.
So with the success of the poetry along the Tarka Trail this summer the trail is already rich with words. We will be running new writing workshops in May 2019 along side the Beaford Arts exhibition at the Burton Gallery, Bideford. But to make things just that more fun, two of these poetry rambles will be peddling poetry rides so bring your bike!
Here are the dates and details for your diary, all of them Sundays – 12th, 19th and 26th May 2019 – pop them in your diary and see you there – no charge, though we do expect you to write a little!
Teddy Spread by C Jelley
Never scrubbed, more tenderly dressed
chosen considered as one
to the n’th degree
This is the moment
drawn from their bedding soil
harvested at peek after tender labour toils
The gauntlet was drawn in generations gone
and the judge
must now be singular and at one
Under tweed control
blood honour rests
for rosettes will be won only
by the best of the best
This spread of platters fit for a King
summon all the Pipers now for the Earl to sing within
teddies in fives as precious angels eggs
await the nod
the mark of the Royal
the marquee of trestles presides today
before the company is mashed and boiled
Beaford Arts – https://beaford.org
And Beaford Poetry Boxes – https://beaford.org/discover-a-beaford-poetry-box/
Tarka Trail Poetry Pin trail – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info
Mr Jelley – http://jelley.info
Saturday 4th August saw the installation of seven new poetry boxes along a section of the Tarka Trail in North Devon and they are already getting lots of attention. I’ve maintained many boxes along walking routes over the years but this is the first cycle and walking trail and also my first main commission with Beaford Arts.
Putting images in the books as seeds for poems is also new, usually a blank page and a request to ‘draw, read or write inside’ is enough of a catalyst but we felt that this commission required a little more.All these new images pictures are from the Beaford Archives and taken by either Roger Deakins or James Ravilious during the 70’s 80s. They come from a selection of the archive which has only recently been digitised and made public; between Roger, James (and Chris Chapman) over 80,000 images were taken so it has been no small feat to digitise the lot!
Interestingly these poetry boxes have become a really curious exhibition of sorts, ‘we’ve never exhibited them like this before’ said Sophie from Beaford Arts ‘so it will be really interesting to see how people react and interact.’
Over the next two months we will see what words and poems will emerge from the walkers and cyclists. The boxes will be removed on 1st October if all goes to plan (sooner if not!) so get down along the Tarka Trail (Instow – Bideford section) hunt out the boxes, enjoy the images and write a few lines about place and space.
Everyone asks what are you doing with the poems? Well a selection of the poems are being digitally geolocated to the trail during the project through this channel.
Open that link in your mobile phone browser and then journey along the trail to reveal the poems or even add new ones of your own (they geotag to your specific location).You can also follow a little of whats going on through twitter @PoetryPin and @Storywalks where snippets of poems are automatically generated when a new poem is geotagged to the trail.
So here to wet your whistle is a geotagged poem which was written in the first few days at the beautiful Instow picnic spot. When I found it I immediately geotagged it to Poetry Pin but was so chuffed that imposed myself on the other visitors to the meadow! By odd chance they had been involved with the very construction of this elvish round house some ten years previous and were visiting to show their tiny kids as they now live in Swindon.
What a great start to the project.
Elvish Tricks by MB
Round and solid topper with sticks
I see the elves have derm up to their tricks
A hut in a field they have constructed
In which their magic may be conducted
They dance and sing clap and chant
As they decide which hiker to enchant
The spells they weave bring luck and joy
To any person girl or boy
Now if you’re quiet and act like an elf
That lucky someone could be yourself
After some word generation and storytelling with my shells, we then broke for lunch and re convened on the Cathedral Green. It was crazy hot and felt more like a festival site than the regular city centre. The final job of the day was to write 360° poems responding to the surroundings, each pupil threw some words together on the cards I’d provided, which they then transcribed and geotagged through exeter.poetrypin.info
Hundreds of Tesco meal deals
Mums and dads
Nans and grans
College kids making weekend plans
Cathedral green on its brightest day,
All the bright colours for the gay pride parade,
The old Tudor house,
Beams and stone,
Who once lived there?
We will never know,
Thousands of years know as the capital
Poems all around,
But yet to find
How long it’ll take
For the city to come alive.
All in all, it was a great session, very simple but effect and interesting for the pupils to actively use their mobiles as part of the session. Their words are now tethered across Exeter Cathedral green and around Exeter Central library, so if you are in the city then hunt them out and add your own 360° poem.
Behind the scenes over the past few months long designed plans have been starting to come to fruition with respects to the Exeter Poetry Pin and the Royal Clarence fire on the Cathedral Green. Daisi – the Devon Arts Consortium have been putting a team of artists together including Poetry Pins’ Mr Jelley to create a new set of works which will be ready for the second anniversary of the fire in autumn this year.
Last week all five artists finally came together to begin this process with the company of Todd Gray who unraveled the history around St Martins Parish, the block of medieval buildings of which the Royal Clarence was one. It was an incredibly enlightening and essential session with reams of notes being taken by all the artists as a great basis and grounding to begin the Re-Boot project works.
In autumn, after all the workshops have been completed Cara Roxanne will create a hoarding (possibly three) to go on the fence which surrounds the building site of the fire on Cathedral Green. These large banner prints are to include augmented elements which will come to life when scanned with your phone, revealing details of the workshops through slide shows and films cleverly triggered by the static images.
Exeter Poetry Pin will be integrated also, firstly through the workshops and secondly during this exhibition to encourage people to add words to the Exeter landscape, especially around the Cathedral Green and St Martins Parish island area. The Exeter Poetry Pin is live and has some beautiful poetry tagged across the city, it is free to use and add your own words which become tagged to the very location you are stood.
Open https://exeter.poetrypin.info on your phone whilst in the city and see how many poems you can hunt out.
The artists commissioned are and in order of images depicted
Tanya Morel – Artist printmaker and actor
Cara Roxanne – Illustrator / Multimedia artist
James Lake – Sculptor
Monica Shanta Brown – Multimedia artist
Christopher Jelley – Poet technologist plus Poetry Pin
Ash, oak and willow herb
Woven flight of swift bird
Smell of green in warmth pervading
Circle songs of birds uplifting
Happy Moment by Gaby Armstrong
Those attending or just passing by and curiously drawn in generally don’t consider themselves as poets, but when they leave after tagging a few words to the landscape, they feel a little less ‘not a poet’ if that is at all possible. I am constantly surprised by the ingenuity and creativity of strangers, and it is rare they don’t surprise themselves a little too!
Minky Mostly slide slinky not slowly
Two whippets fast darting past fluttering butterflies
Lazy through the towering willow lying on a grassy pillow
In a lattice of shadows the two dogs eventually rest.
Longrun Whippets by Hannah and Jess
There are about two dozen poems tagged to Longrun Meadow now, of which these posted are part of, but I will leave you with this one of my composition which was drawn from a list of plants which have become resident in the meadow as only a few years ago this was arable farm land. The names of these plants lends to poetry with ease, and so there are a few compositions on this theme.
Wavy Bitter-cress is here
Down by your knees beside the Common Mouse-ear
Or over near the Smooth Hawks-beard
Aside Dandelion and the Crested Dog’s-tail
Or was that the Meadow Foxtail
No definitely beside the Ribwort Plantain
But you’ve got to root and scour through the brush
And careful you don’t squash the Bulbous buttercup
Not to be confused with its sibling of course
Its a little sensitive to naming
Miss spelling is rude, inconsiderate and a little shaming
It must be identified right and true
This is the right plant, through and through
But I think I am more convinced as to what it is not
So yes, right here
It’s definitely the Bitter-cress we’ve got
Wavey Bitter-cress by Christopher Jelley
The day was facilitated by Arts Taunton and InspirED – the educational arm of Somerset Arts Works and designed to engage with individuals and families with word and place during National Meadows Day 1st July 2017
More about National Meadows Day
All poems written on the day were also geo-located to the meadow at
and are available to view for free in location they were posted at this web address.
More info about Poetry Pin – get in touch for your own Poetry Pool
More info about Arts Taunton
A busy couple of weeks has just passed with Poetry Pin having a great article in The Poetry Society Newspaper as well as a stall and platform at the Visit Exeter launch at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum with partners Daisi – Arts Inspired Learning.
The Poetry Society News is a quarterly paper specifically for members with competitions and awards for works across the country, so it is amazing to have an article about my contribution to the poetry world. Connecting to professionals and possible collaborators is essential and I am really excited to see what interest and leads may come about through it.
In a similar but more immediate way, last week’s Visit Exeter launch was an event purely for providers in the city, and again an excellent networking event but obviously focused specifically on Exeter providers. The night was designed for businesses to show each other what they do for the city, so it was great to be there with Daisi, my Exeter Poetry Pin partners.
Our stand included pin medallions, depicting poems published to the city since Exeter Poetry Pin went live in January. It was great to be able to use such a fresh resource, illustrating the depth and breadth of interest the writing community has here, but the real key connections came in the form of Exeter Red Coats, Exeter’s enigmatic tour guides. These knowledgeable ambassadors have a truly street level perspective on the cities historic layers and so a digital addition with Poetry Pin could perhaps provide a new string to add to their professional bow. When we chatted it was obvious their interest was piqued, and we really hope they will embrace Exeter Poetry Pin and help spread the word of this virtual poetry city.
So there is plenty more for Poetry Pin and Daisi to do, raising awareness of the creative possibilities across Exeter as the seasons warm. As the joy of walking becomes less about dodging the cold showers and more about appreciating this fabulous place, perhaps you will be enticed to leave a token few words in your favourite corner of the city too.
If you are considering a poetry pin for your city or festival then please do get in touch, it can add a brilliant new creative cultural layer, shining light on old places in new ways.
There is a school of thought which suggests an event horizon or critical mass of engagement, which a few rare projects may attain or even pass through and come of age. This is the point they become fully grown, have a life of their own beyond the concept which was originally conceived or designed. This is a point in time which you wish and plan for but ironically, are quite reticent about, the point where people begin to engage and populate the project, driving it in new directions and with new desires, it is the point you yearn for all projects to attain yet unfortunately they rarely do.
For example earlier this month a poet pinned her poem in the designed digital fashion, but rather than just tagging it to one spot, she cut it up into ten pieces and pinned those across the city individually. The poetry hunter can now search out all ten parts to read the whole poem dipping across the city to hoover all the elements up to make a whole, or enjoy each morsel individually like succulent fruits.
The first Poetry Pin trail at Hinkley Point in West Somerset was designed as a path of poems along a public right of way in the shadow of the new build, and poems posted along its length became a poetry trail. But Exeter is naturally different, there is no single trail, with head and tail, but as poems are posted and pinned the natural topography interposes itself and journeys of poetry are born. A little like a picture is formed of its pixels, the Exeter Poetry Pin is naturally becoming linear journeys through the city, or more playfully perhaps a series of poetry passages.
This is what I had hoped for and envisaged, that writers would be so enamoured with words and places they would be compelled (like me) to post and pin their words but then Andrea Gallagher (the poet who cut her poem up) went a little further and connected the physical to the digital by dropping little poetry bottles in the places her words were pinned. This connected the ethereal digital of Poetry Pin to the location in a generous and tactile manner, pointing back to the words hidden across the city.
As it is very difficult to add signage across Exeter, and there are plenty of good reasons why the red tape exists, it falls to the artists to create new ways to point back to their poetry. Andrea’s poem and bottles are a wonderful example of this creativity artists have, the desire to play and tinker to create a treasure trail of secrets in a special and unique way. This is a sentiment we adore, for me it is why and how the project works, the very ‘ask’ of Poetry Pin requires strangers to gift their time just for the fun of it, it is an ‘ask’ which, when people post poems, we find perpetually humbling and lifting in equal measure.
Exeter is gently becoming the first digital poetry city, words stitched to place by a ‘pixel of poets’ (a new collective noun perhaps), now eight score and more poems have been pinned since opening, we must thank those who have gifted their time to play and to encourage you to carry on playing. Has Exeter Poetry Pin passed that supposed event horizon? Who knows, but it definitely feels like the first wing beats of flight have happened and our feet are truly off the ground.
He keeps her soul sealed
In a small glass jar,
Up there on the shelf.
Until she’s ready
To come take it back.
All that time searching,
Looking for something.
She didn’t know what.
Her body a husk,
A broke open shell.
Parts one and two from ‘Message in a bottle: Lost and Found’ by Andrea Gallagher
images by Andrea Gallagher
Exeter Poetry Pin has been made possible with our partners Daisi Arts and Exeter City Council.
Daisi – Arts Inspired Learning
The Exeter trail – https://exeter.poetrypin.info
Exeter Poetry Pin will, from Monday 9th January 2017, be the first virtual poetry city!
Monumental news which I have been keeping close to my chest as it feels just too good to be true. Some people pick up scratch cards and lottery tickets, other trawl antique markets in the hope to strike it lucky, but for me it’s Poetry Pin which can provide riches and rewards. For late last year in response to the fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Exeter City Council got in touch wanting to provide city residents with a mechanism to engage their thoughts and views about the city through poetry.
My works with Lynmouth Pavilion and The Exmoor National Park over the last three years culminated in the publishing of a book called Exmoor Poetry Boxes – A harvest of wild words. The project placed six little tins in three different Exmoor locations over the summers of 2014, 15 and 16 harvesting words from passersby, by the end of the three summers we had over 5500 poems, an incredible achievement.
It caught the attention of The Guardian newspaper and national TV which was then picked up by an Exeter city councillor, thinking perhaps a similar approach could capture the sentiment about the fire and the wider city as a whole. After much deliberation, they considered the Poetry Boxes too vulnerable in the city, and so instead decided on the alternative digital option of the Poetry Pin system, which we have subsequently modified especially with Exeter in mind.
Partnering with Daisi – The Devon Arts Organisation the refreshed system will enable poetry to be posted anywhere across the city, a zone which is about 12km wide and covering segments of EX1,2,3 and 4. Anyone with a smart phone and visiting https://exeter.poetrypin.info will be able to post and read poems woven into the very weft of the cities skin.
From 9th January the new Poetry Pin canvas will go live, and here are a few words from Daisi – Arts Inspired Learning about the Exeter Poetry Pin.
The aims of this project are, to engage and inspire Exeter residents to reflect, consider and put their thoughts into words, in order that others can share their experiences. The poems may be inspired by the fire or they may be about the city itself, their sense of place, importance of heritage or something else related to the city. The geo location of each poem adds an extra dimension to the poetry, as it will locate the poem to the specific point in the city where the author stood, thus giving the reader a sense of place and connection.
So charge up your phone and go searching and posting poems, the dawn of the virtual poetry city is upon us with Exeter as the figure head.
Daisi – Arts Inspired Learning
Lynmouth Pavilion and Exmoor National Park
Exmoor Poetry Boxes Book – a harvest of wild words
the new trail – https://exeter.poetrypin.info