Please note: the Poetic Places app was discontinued in December 2019. This page is maintained for information.
What is Poetic Places?
Poetic Places is a collaborative project between the British Library and TIME/IMAGE, funded by CreativeWorks London, to bring poetic depictions of places into the everyday world. Realised as a free mobile app for iOS and Android, it allows users to encounter poems and literature in the locations described, along with audiovisual materials drawn from archive collections and a little contextual information.
Poetic Places aspires to give a renewed sense of place, to bring together writings and paintings and sounds to mean more than they do alone, and to bring literature into your everyday life in unexpected moments.
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 is a lovely poem by William Wordsworth. We know exactly when the poem was written—at around 6am on 31st July 1802 ( contrary to its title) as Wordsworth travelled to Dover with his sister Dorothy. This date means that the bridge the poem was written upon is not the Westminster Bridge that stands there today, which was opened in 1862.
To give an emotive sense of these things we might include some etchings of that old bridge, or The Last of Old Westminster by James Whistler, a painting which shows it being dismantled. We might also include an archive recording of the poem from the British Library Sounds archive.
How do I use the app?
There are several ways of using the app.
The first method—and the one the app is most intended for—is to leave the app running in the background on your phone and let it notify you when you chance upon a place with a poetic item attached to it; you might then pause a moment to read the poem, enjoy the images, and consider the place in a new way.
Another method is to explore the map and visit the marked places to uncover the verses there.
Alternatively, you might enjoy the poems and depictions on the app without visiting the place—perhaps they might inspire you to go there! To improve accessibility, most verses are available without the user needing to be in the relevant location.
We’re currently experimenting with having some content that’s completely hidden until you chance upon it whilst out and about.
How has Poetic Places come about?
Poetic Places is a collaboration between the British Library and Sarah Cole of TIME/IMAGE. The project has been funded by CreativeWorks London under the Creative Entrepreneur in Residence scheme. It’s an experiment that explores the representation of space and literary geographies, as well as the feasibility of such an experience with particular reference to costs, curation of content across archive ‘silos’, and ease of creation.
How does it work?
Poetic Places is built, for reasons detailed here, using the GoodBarber platform. Being a native app allows Poetic Places to monitor your location using GPS and thus notify you when you’re in a relevant place. Location data is used solely for this purpose and is not recorded.