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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.

Posted in Poetry News on Friday, November 11th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.