'Words in air': exploring how poets walk the line - from tintern abbey to division street
Walking with Words in Air connects us with past and present visions of landscape, challenging us to respond in fresh ways. This unique locative app pinpoints the sources of inspiration across the UK and Ireland of 100 poems, contemporary and classic, enhancing our understanding and enjoyment of the poem, poet, and place.
To many poets, walking is intrinsic to a poem's source of inspiration and form of expression. In poetic terms, a foot defines the metrics of a line of poetry, its rhythm, syllable by syllable, stressed or unstressed. Walking helps to create and shape the poem. Witness Dante's role as the Pilgrim-protagonist who both experiences the journey and is the poet who records it; to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales a century later.
Wordsworth's return to the majestic ruins of Tintern Abbey inspired him to write the defining poem of the Romantic Movement. Murmuring the lines to himself, composing as he walked, Wordsworth never jotted down a word until later, losing and finding himself in that 'wild secluded scene'.
Flash forward 200 years to poet Helen Mort whose opening lines of her title poem Division Street capture her response as she revisits the aptly-named spot in her native Sheffield:
You brought me here to break it off
one muggy Tuesday. A brewing storm
the pigeons sleek with rain.
My black umbrella flexed its wings.
Words in Air reveals how poets walk the line, then and now. This immediate, effortless access to a poem on its site of inspiration creates a new audience for poetry, inspiring the casual and dedicated walker to explore new and familiar landscapes, rural and urban, which, for better or worse, are shaped by previous visions. Together with app developer John Kennedy, we've created Words in Air, accessed by nearly 1000 people in 56 countries, on the Apple platform.
Alice Kavounas's latest collection is Thin Ice (Shearsman). She lives on the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall and is a core tutor with Poetry School London. Her poems have appeared in the TLS, LRB, London Magazine, and aired on the BBC. Born in Manhattan to Greek parents, her father escaped from his idyllic birthplace in Asia Minor in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, giving her a deep sense of the significance of 'place'. Her poetry collections include Ornament of Asia (Shearsman), which refers to Smyrna, her father's city, the richest, most cosmopolitan in the Ottoman Empire which, in 1922 would burn to the ground. Alice holds a BA degree in Eng Lit from Vassar, and, following a career in advertising in NY and London, led Falmouth University's Postgrad Course in Creative Advertising as senior lecturer.