“Sense of Place” refers to the emotive bonds and attachments people develop or experience in particular locations and environments, at scales ranging from the home to the nation.” From The International Encylopedia of Human Geography
Imagine you’re house hunting. You step into a strange building for the first time. How does it feel? Is it welcoming, does it feel anonymous or do your senses tell you that this place feels like home? Most of us have felt this - it’s about having a sense of place. We might feel drawn to a special building, a hill, a street, a lake and wonder why it makes us feel something special. And out of the wondering has sometimes come amazing stuff.
A sense of place is a concept that has been a major inspiration in the lives of musicians like John Lennon and Paul MacCartney writing about Liverpool - Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields - or Ralph Vaughan Williams composing his Norfolk Rhapsody. It’s cast its spell over artists like Stanley Spencer who spent much of his career portraying biblical events in his village of Cookham, which he nicknamed “the holy suburb of heaven” or John Constable’s pictures along the River Stour where he grew up.
But poets, in particular, have celebrated the sense of place. Here are a few favourites:
Dylan Thomas’ “play for voices” Under Milk Wood is set in the mythical harbour town of Llareggub - based on the poet’s home town of Laugharne. Many of his poems describe this place. Poem in October is an especially wonderful example:
A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Here’s the whole poem:
February Evening in New York by Denise Levertov is a short atmospheric sketch of the city with gorgeous images:
a winter light opens air to iris blue
It’s a winter evening as the stores close and the workers head home but she wreaths it in magic:
And lastly a beautiful evocation of the city of Oxford by Keith Douglas, a promising talent whose life was cut short in the Second World War. His lovely lines:
summer holds her breath in a dark street
the trees nocturnally scented, lovers like moths
unfold in a tumble of beautiful phrases.
If you’d like to explore with us your own special places through poetry take a look at our online poetry courses:
Or contact us to book for an experience of Experiments in Poetry: