Words on the wind

A Walk in the Park

Sunday 12th June 2022 saw the writing workshop in Dunster Deer Park, one of the more recent Poetry Pin channels with currently over 80 poems tagged to the park for visitors to hunt and find.

We met at the grass labyrinth near Gallox Bridge and did a quick ‘tech check’ to make sure all had their phones open at the correct poetry pin trail. Initially signal was sketchy for one (O2) but enough to get going, then we were off into the forest to lose ourselves in words and observations.

The group had no qualms about writing, but a few initial ones about the rules of what a poem actually was. Apparently Samuel Taylor Coleridge specified this over 200 years ago by stipulating that poems are ‘the best words in the best order’ with prose being just ‘the best words’! We discussed this for a while before the sounds and views along with the flora and fauna of the park distracted us into writing.

By the end of our wander several compositions were pinned to the park.

Mounds blister the pony-bitten turf,
Dry pedestals for speedwells, tormentil, bedstraw and mouse eared hawkweed;
Each hiding a catacomb of tunnels and chambers,
Construction of an industry of ants.
A rash of uncountable numbers pimple the sward,
Crowded and enterprising as a city,
In this peace of breeze and birdsong
Cloistered by ash trees.

Poem written and posted by Michelle Werrett
Writing in the Deer Park, Dunster

The next workshop is 14th August 2022 in Dunster Deer Park. This is an evening walk, we’ll meet at 4pm and then amble into the gathering dusk.

To book please RSVP here – https://www.sevenfables.co.uk/seven-fables-events

Poet Support !

I’ve put together a little support package to help people add poems to their favourite channel. The film is a little longer than I expected but covers all the areas of adding poetry and hunting them out.

Alternatively there is a pdf which you can download, link below.

For those administering the poems, here is a slightly different tutorial which explains a little more about editing, deleting and changing the location of a poem.

Enjoy

Ledbury Poetry Festival 2021

Poetry Pin is really excited to be part of the Ledbury Poetry Festival this July, and preparations have already begun. In a year of cancellations, zoom conferences and just straight up dissappointments, the festival will be a blend of both physical and digital events.

There will still be a locus of Ledbury poetry readings and performances, but these will be embellished with digital events which can be accessed by greater numbers from all around the world.

But there really is nothing quite like live, the jostle of seats, the people watching, the hum in the air, obviously some of this you can still have in the zoom presentations but it really is a poor cousin to a live performance.

It must be said, though that we are far from the end of the ‘Covid inconvenience’ and truly thankful to get any form of creative culture into our silo’s.

So where and how does Poetry Pin fit in with these new circumstances and how can festival goers get excited about Ledbury.poetrypin.info. Well firstly I should explain that Poetry Pin requires both viewer and author to visit Ledbury, there is not an armchair option although snippets of new poems with be posted out through Twitter ‘as they happen’ so to speak.

Poetry Pin is a digital system (basically a web page) but it cleverly uses your location to post your poem to the exact spot on which you are stood. This will add pin a new poem and digital pin to the town, and if anyone else comes over to that same location with the webpage open, they will be able to read your words. It is as a kind of a poetry treasure hunt where the poems are written and tagged to place and the audience has to walk the town to search them out.

Poetry Pin is more physical than digital,

So Poetry Pin is designed for those who will be treading the pavements of the town, enabling locals and festival attendees to write their fabulous words and poems anywhere across Ledbury.

Previous locations of Poetry Pins have seen writers drop poems along trails like a string of pearls, they have written conversation poems in two places which exist singularly but become greater still when read in their dual contexts. We wonder how playful and creative poets will be in Ledbury this year, what they will post and what journeys the poet hunters will experience.

Ledbury is the first major festival to commission poetry pin and the poems published will be live for a year at the very least. If all goes to plan then year after year the trails will become richer and more diverse, responses to poems, poems about place, reflections, memories, snapshots of words and places caught in time.

The trail is due to go live 1st June 2021 where anyone will be able to visit the town, open the ledbury.poetrypin.info site on their phone to begin pinning.

free Poetry Pin walking and writing workshop

For me the Poetry Pin is more physical than digital, to read a poem you have to stand in the same spot as the author. You will see what they saw, be in the same foot print and soundscape as the author, this enables a whole host of new writing possibilities for the author and reader to embrace.

Here’s looking forward to new words, tagged across the town, new poems, new journeys, and new experiences.

ledbury.poetrypin.info will be open for all to add poems across the town from 1st June 2021. Poems will be available for a year and there is no charge to add or hunt out poems. Keep an eye out for the Ledbury Festival brochure with more details, including free Poetry Pin walking and writing workshops to happen during the festival.

from the ashes . . .

I do believe there is a suggestion of Spring in the air, so with that said I shall post a short film captured on Exmoor just a week or so back which we made in collaboration with Seven Fables of Dulverton. Notice the witchy snow which rises on the moors and can only be witnessed by those who wander the combes with deep hearts and broad minds (!)

So new projects are in the air in 2021 with the first of which being Libraries Unlimited of Devon and followed by Ledbury Poetry Festival. The former begins in May and is hosted by the library of Northam. There will be a couple of workshop walks to kick things off in May but the channel will be open for a year where locals and visitors will be able to write and pin words across Northam, Westward Ho! and Northam Burrows.

The channel size actually covers a zone about 6 miles across which encompasses a broad stretch of open access sand dunes edging the Atlantic Ocean just across the estuary from Barnstaple. As always the ability to post your new poems to the landscape in these channels will be free made possible through funding support from Libraries Unlimited and Ledbury Festival.

There have been so many projects kicked into the long grass over the last year, so it is doubly great to get some traction at last for new poems in new places. As details begin to flesh out I will add and update the focus walks page and post a link to the new channels ready for your interaction.

Notes on the poem film – the spell poem is by Robert Macfarlane narrated by Julie Fowlis with a soundscape by Chris Watson. The poem, or spell as Robert prefers to call them, was published last year in The Lost Spells, the sister book to The Lost Words . Published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, it is a collaboration between Robert Macfarlane and illustrator / author Jackie Morris.

May I have a new trail please?

If you would like to host a Poetry Pin trail, and make a poetry trail in a park or place near you then please get in touch. Costs are calculated on a case by case basis but they start from free!

Contact details are here – https://poetrypin.info/contact/

What will you bring to the table?

Been a fab year 2019 for Poetry Pin, we had brilliant support from Arts Council England and Beaford.org to deliver the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin trail but we feel the real work is just only beginning. We are looking forward to new poetry plans and possibilities for new trails and channels in 2020. 

So here is our proposal, we would like to set up a batch of new Poetry Pins in new places for free – perhaps festivals or parks, perhaps in places where there are changes coming, vistas changing, celebrations, destabilisations, responses from the heart, from the head and from the heel. 

There are so many good reasons why new poetry must be geo-tagged and pinned to place.

But where, with who, why and when? 

What place should have a poetry pin zone, what landscape deserves one and what is it about that place which would make anyone react / interact / respond / reply? 

Where are you considering, with what community should you be engaging, should we engage with? And what’s really stopping you, I mean really, are you an organiser, a poet, an activist, a literacy festival? Does your community have words to post, do you have something to say, isn’t it time you made a bread crumb trail of your voice, or caught feedback within the landscape of your event, or just asked your punters to respond with their words for others to hunt and enjoy.

So this coming spring, we are going to be setting up a raft of new channels for free across the country and we are not just limited to the UK, we can make poetry channels anywhere and everywhere.

Are you interested? or know a group who would like to publish their works to the earth? Just get in touch, tell us how it could or should work for you and we’ll see what we can do. If we like your plan then we’ll set up the channel, you’ll need to fill it with words and dialogue too (it won’t fill itself you know!) 

You’ll need to manage the submissions and spread the word that your channel is open for poetry. But the system is pretty simple; people can add new poems direct from their phone into your chosen zone (cleverly the pins are added to the location the author is stood) plus you can hunt out poems already pinned. Have a look at the live channels to see how it all works.

So, we’ll make the space for you, set up a unique Poetry Pin channel in your chosen location but what will you bring to the table?

At your Stamping Stations

Over the past four months, seven locations along the Tarka Trail have hosted stamping stations for the Peddling Poetry Project. Each were listed inside the Peddling Poetry Passports (of which 100’s were distributed to schools, walkers, writers along the trail.)

The project ran in three simple phases or stages

1 – get your passport and visit the cafes to stamp it

2 – follow the instructions inside to hunt out the poetry along the trail with your family and phone

3 – write your own poem and pin it to the trail for others to find

So how many passports were taken, how many stamps made and how many new poems posted?

Jimmy of the Waterside Diner – Chivenor nr Braunton

About 3500 passports have made it into the hands of the curious over the past four months, a great proportion of the 5000 printed. But how many of these passports made it to the stamping stations is really hard to ascertain. The cafes reported ‘regular visitors’ but thats really vague, and waiting in a cafe to count was really unproductive.

How many people went hunting the poetry is also really hard to quantify, specifically due to how the system (web app) actually works. We can count the number of web hits / downloads to a device (every open is a download!) but I don’t trust this metric at all. For years people have been telling me how many thousands visit their webpage. My belief is that these are all web bots and not real people at all. Real metrics are hard to get!

Lisa of The Burton Art Gallery – Bideford

But what we can count are the new poems when someone pins it to the trail. This adds a time stamp to the database along with the gps location so we know where the author stood when they posted, as well as what they wrote (the poem).

Initially I pinned 150 poems on the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin for the launch this spring, which came from the poetry boxes installed last summer. Those ten little poetry boxes and subsequent poems laid the foundations for the trail as I geotagged each in turn to the very places where the tins had been installed. This meant as we launched in spring there was already content for people to seek out. Now at the end of these four months we have over 300 poems pinned to the trail, not bad at all.

Stella of Tea on the Train – East the Water Station

And even though the stamping stations have now retired for 2019, the trail is still open for new poems and will remain so for the foreseeable future. In addition to this, the cafes felt there was plenty of future potential for the project and were keen on doing it again next year.

Doing it all again.

That would of course rest with a few things falling into place but primarily funding as this years project was only possible due to support from Beaford.org who commissioned me in the first place with a residency. Out of this I was able to throw together an additional Arts Council England proposal which really put some gas in the tank and successfully launched the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin.

It also meant I could design and print passports, connect properly with the cafes along the trail, whip up and distribute the stamping stations, and run nine public creative writing workshops plus a further three with local schools. I could also monitor the poetry being submitted, keep the Facebook and Twitter feeds alive (easier said than done) and enticing more and more to play.

The Puffing Billy Trading Co – Torrington

So having peddled and walked, chatted and hunted, wandered and talked from tip to tail of the tarka trail; having written poetry about lime kilns, cyclists, tea drinkers, errant yachts, sleepy tunnels, seaweed, sand and the seasons; and having read poetry about old folks, bike spokes, oily spanners, and family clangers, Brexit, boat yards and simple playing cards (actually not too much about Briexit thankyou!) I feel the Poetry Pin along the Tarka Trail has blossomed.

The Glorious Oyster – Instow

There are poems all the way from Braunton to Torrington, some are nested in clusters (the Instow picnic spot) others are off the trail (Victoria Park in Bideford / the old Rolle tow path near Torrington.) Some are under bridges, others with wide open vistas, some are tagged to benches, others about old friends and long lost loves. There are lots and lots about riding bicycles, all are full of facets, deviations and diversions, with each and everyone fascinating in their own way.

Paul of Fremington Quay Cafe – Fremington Quay

So its with great pride I am able to add these photos of the 2019 Stamping Station hosts along the Tarka Trail. Their part in this project has been essential, but better still they have asked for the project to repeat next year.

Phoebe of the Station Masters Cafe – Barnstaple

But in the mean time, get out there with your passports and tag new poems in readiness, lay a breadcrumb trail of special words for others to seek out and enjoy. Just this morning I had three new poems added along with this email. What a great end to the project.

‘We did the route from Westleigh to Fremington yesterday and picked up 130+ poems! We were told the stamps had been removed, but got the stamp station staff to draw in the passports instead!!’ Andrew

To round off I will finish with a poem as is the form, but go back to the roots of Poetry Pin with the very first trail at Hinkley C in Somerset. This was the rallying chant to get people writing to that trail, may the chant be sung loudly for many years to come. This is the Somerset Hinkley C trail which is still live and ready to receive your words of wisdom. https://hinkley.poetrypin.info

What Shakes?

Just bite it, and write it,

word it, then site it.

Park your mark to this path,

for the next to read

on their digital pass.

The canvas awaits,

what shakes, what breaks?

A trail of traits,

all shapes and mistakes.

Only here can you gather

the rhythm and flow,

the dips in the trail

or the rain on your brow.

Untethered and exposed,

released and refreshed,

word-smith extrusions,

juices freshly pressed.

So, stitch it to the trail,

put a notch in the rail,

post it, haste it,

chain it, and paste it.

The canvas awaits,

what shakes, what shakes?

The canvas awaits,

what shakes?

Pinners!

Poet in action

The last of the workshops is now complete and the final snatch of days for the project which launched this spring with just under 150 poems. These were themselves written by walkers in the poetry boxes which I placed along the trail August September 2018. Today we are past the 300 mark which is incredible thanks in part to last Sundays poets firing out some 20 new compositions around the Instow area.

This was our first medley of words from the day and they certainly paint the picture of Instow harbour for me. Usually there are subsequent composite poems too, but the group was keen to build their own works and words and who am I to slow them down!

The workshops generally begin with a simple task of writing what we can see in a 360˚ loop around us. As people are beginning to make marks on their word harvesting cards I like to say ‘focus on detail’. I find, the richer the observations the better, as a little further along the track I asked each poet to throw me a line to write up a composite poem. Not only does this break the hurdle of sharing (they were a great group anyway) but it also shows how easy it is to pin a poem to the trail.

Hand in Hand
Muddy waters lift the blues
Needle stack yacht masts
Whistlin’ sea breeze
Weather vane turning
Faded cormorant illustration
Splattered sea weed bladders
Mud veins reach through sand
Couples stroll out hand in hand

This was a walking workshop (six of the nine public workshop were peddling ones this year) and as such we deviated from the trail, walking down onto Instow beach watching the (controversial) dog walkers (there is a poem pinned about this here!) The wind was whipping sand across the bay and brave families were zipping up hoodies and grasping beach tents whilst their kids dug away carefree.

The Boats Salute
Bideford boats tug at the tide
South they face
as the rivers retract
Ready to switch sides
when the waters draw back
Slapping their keels
and thrumming at the breeze
They jitter at the passing winds
and are hungry for the seas
and are hungry for the seas

Now
Wide open spaces
Human traces
One eyed warrior
Half buried in sand
We’re here for today
Tomorrow gone
Blow with the wind
Atlantic beyond

Then on to the Glorious Oyster cafe tucked away in the dunes, almost out of the wind but not quite. Here we recharged with coffee, cake, and then a couple of new poems pinned before striding out to the Instow picnic spot. On arriving, a little blown out from the warm wind, we sheltered in the round hut and listened / watched a shower pass whilst writing new poems.

I wish I knew:
The name of the pink flowers
Profuse in their perfect gaudiness.
I know Ivy – she tangles
Her heart-shaped leaves
High into the roof.
Naughty Deadly Nightshade
Nudges my feet,
Snarly snares of bramble
Try to trip the unwary
And the troublesome sky
Frowns darkly down
Into my cob-walled cubbyhole.

Finally back out into the sunshine for a spot of lunch and a few more poems before heading back. All in all, a rewarding and productive day, plus a great session to end on, thankyou to all.

The Poetry Pin trails are open for writing and interaction 24/7 even though the passports and stamping stations are drawing to a close on the Tarka Trail you will still be able to add your poetry to this trail and all the others for the foreseeable future. The first trail began in 2013 which you can still write poems to and read the compositions. If you are a writer, poet, artist, creative and you’d like to put a trail together in your area then please get in touch.

Poem 1 – Hand in Hand – All workshop participants.

Poem 2 – The Boats Salute – Christopher Jelley

Poem 3 – Now – Sara Cheesman

Poem 4 – I Wish I Knew – Julie Sedgman

On a wing and a wheel

A peddling poet showing off her recently stamped poetry passport
at The Glorius Oyster, Instow.

Incredibly we are past the 200 poem marker now, with new compositions pinned by pupils, walkers and riders along the Tarka Trail almost daily. It has also been very heartening to talk to the cafe owners who are hosting the Stamping Stations about their feedback from customers. Are people asking where the stamping stations are? are they asking for passports?

Well the quick answer is yes, generally they are loving it (and whats not to love!) So with new poems being posted, stamping stations being visited and new passports being requested and issued, I think we can safely say that we are finally on our way.

So this is the most recent poem pinned to the trail by Sarah Connor (thankyou). For me it has all the great attributes for a pinned poem, written in the place it was posted, reflecting the natural surroundings through word and rhythm, and nice and succinct.

This boat’s not going anywhere
Stuck in the mud as the tide went out
Ribs intact, skin all cracked,
Beams burnt black, deck peeled back
River weeds are taking hold
In the hold.

The location for this poem is just north of East The Water along the Tarka Trail, at the point where houses finally give way and the estuary opens out in all its tidal glory. Go hunt it out with friends and family and post your own for others to find.

New poems can be posted at any time along the Tarka Trail, just open this link on your mobile phone. But remember that your new words will be tagged and pinned to the place you are standing. Peddling Passports are available from the Cafes along the trail and each cafe has their own unique stamp.

Tarka Trail Poetry Pin link – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info

Stamping poetry passports at The Burton Art Gallery, Bideford during a workshop.
  • June 1st, 2019
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Poetry Passports Please!

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

anon

Image by James Ravilious and copyright of the Beaford Archives

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.

Poetry Passports for the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin in 2019

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.