Poetry News

Mapping poetic geography

By Harriet Staff

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has launched a Twittery project called Poetry 4 U that allows people to upload short poems (140 characters, of course) to a Google map:

Pinning community-generated poetry to site-specific spaces on google maps allows a layer of narrative to alter the reader’s perception of their immediate surroundings when they view these site-specific poems through their mobile phone.

A quick glance at the map reveals a narrative layer that reads a little like Missed Connections:

I want to stand next to you
on a crowded tram
on a reallycrowdedtram
so crowded
that we have to touch.

- Bernadette Zen

Hey! I can see you. I like your style.
The way you move; it moves me.
I’m behind you, in a red hat, black jacket.
We should meet up soon. xx

- dan rooke

Interestingly, many of these geo-tagged poems seem to have been composed on public transit, as people travel from one place to another, pecking out a little verse on their phones while jammed up against a bunch of strangers. We're reminded of Andrei Codrescu, who wrote "the only geography of poets/ is greyhound/ general motors rules them all."

Poetry 4 U isn't the only project of its kind. The Poetry Atlas, convinced there's a poem about every place on earth, is hoping to map them all. They've pinned down a thousand so far, including Longfellow waxing about seaweed in Bermuda and Whitman on India's explorers and conquerors. Check out all the poems here.

Originally Published: November 11th, 2011