is a free app for iOS and Android devices and the main outcome of my work as Creativeworks London Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence (CEIR) at the British Library.
Poetic Places brings poetic depictions of places into the everyday world, helping you to encounter poems and literature in the locations described, accompanied by audiovisual materials drawn from archive collections –
Utilising geolocation services and push notifications, Poetic Places can let you know when you stumble across a place depicted in verse. Alternatively, you can browse the poems and places as a source of inspiration without travelling.
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.
The idea for Poetic Places came from thinking about all the fictions that might exist about any given place, about how we might access them, and how they might inform our understanding of that location.
I was fortunate to find a partner for my application in Stella Wisdom of the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Department, who helped me narrow down my focus to poetry (and poetic depictions) for this project.
Being CEIR at the British Library not only provided a great, resource-rich environment in which to work but also put me in touch with so many people who helped me to develop Poetic Places – people with expertise in geolocation technology, games, poetry and poets, copyright, and more.
And develop it did.
For example, I hadn’t given too much thought to copyright before I got started but I quickly came to realise that negotiating the complexities of copyright would be both time-consuming and expensive. I have a motto, of late, though—‘It’s not a problem, it’s a feature’. Thus I realised that this would be a prime opportunity to utilise out-of-copyright works and showcase open collections (licensed under Creative Commons) and digital resources, such as the British Library’s Flickr collection of over 1 million images and the hundreds of paintings at the Yale Center for British Art. It also made sense from a curatorial point of view – utilising old collections and artworks means that many of the poems in Poetic Places are accompanied by contemporary works of art.
Another aim that quickly developed was to make an app that others could make too. This might sound a little odd, but I wanted to prove that even non-coders with small budgets could make an interesting and unusual app. I also wanted to create something with longevity, that wouldn’t be obsolete with the next software update, and that had an appealing user interface. I opted to utilise an app-building platform to this end and spent a lot of time researching various platforms before I settled on one called GoodBarber. I shan’t go into too much detail here, but the construction of GoodBarber itself then had a further impact on the functionality and look of the app.
You can read more about all of these aspects, and others I’m continuing to write about, on my development blog.
Poetic Places may now be out in the wild, but it’s still young. We’ve got a boatload of great ideas for expanding and improving on the app, such as expanding the app to cover areas outside of London, adding modern content via partnerships, adding audio, and creating an accompanying web resource.
For now, though, I’m hoping that Poetic Places—both as an app and a project—will inspire people. Simply search ‘Poetic Places’ in the App Store or Google Play to try out the app for yourself.
Sarah Cole, Creative Entrepreneur in Residence, will talk about the ideas, processes, and choices that have shaped the project at the Creativeworks London Festival, taking place on Friday 29th April 2016. Click here for more information and to book a place.