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Poet Will Harris was moved by his time with volunteers at Stonehenge, and produced a new poem describing how the ancient monument encourages people to think about the movement of time and their memories of loved ones. 

Beauty and power of summer solstice at Stonehenge celebrated in new poem

The beauty and power of the summer solstice at Stonehenge has been celebrated in a new poem by a leading writer as part of a unique project to stimulate literary creativity around the country.

Places of Poetry is designed to inspire people to create new poems about the environment and history around them, which are then “pinned” to a specially-created digital map for others to see. This summer some of the country’s best poets are working with the public at beautiful locations to inspire them to pen their own poems.

Poet Will Harris was moved by his time with volunteers at Stonehenge, and produced a new poem describing how the ancient monument encourages people to think about the movement of time and their memories of loved ones. Mr Harris also worked with a group of asylum-seekers at Avebury,

“Poetry helps people make sense of complicated experiences. I love working with the public because poetry come alive when you share it,” Mr Harris said. “Watching other people create their own poetry is really liberating for me. Poetry is not “high art” or elitist, anyone can create it.”

Mr Harris, whose first full poetry collection, RENDANG, is forthcoming from Granta in 2020, also worked with members of the community of the Harbour Project, a drop-in centre in Swindon for refugees, at Avebury. He used the symbolism of the stone circles, and their mystery, as well as ideas about national identity to help people start writing.

Co-director of Places of Poetry, Professor McRae from the University of Exeter, said: “We saw how much people appreciate the environment around them and how poetry can help them to articulate this. One older man asked me to transcribe a poem about the threats posed by humans to the natural environment which he had written many years ago as a teenager while living in a nearby village.

“Places of Poetry is helping people use this powerful medium to express the relationship between individuals, places and their histories. When we worked with volunteers at Stonehenge each person expressed something thoughtful and personal when asked what the place meant to them, from the effect of mists rolling in of an evening and dissipating in the morning to encounters with hares and feeling a powerful emotional connection with ancestors.”

People being helped by the Harbour Project are awaiting decisions on asylum claims. One produced a poem describing how he had been saved from a bullet by a stone or rock. His friend had not been so fortunate, and lay now in a grave, thousands of miles away, with only a stone to record his existence.

The stunning Places of Poetry digital map of England and Wales consists of two layers: an artistic map, based on decorative seventeenth-century county maps, and a second layer of Ordnance Survey data, allowing users to zoom in to a high level of detail.

The Places of Poetry project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, and is made possible by partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society and National Poetry Day.

For more information and writing tips, visit www.placesofpoetry.org.uk.

Before solstice, by Will Harris

Nearly the middle of June, the

middle of the year, when light at

half-past two makes the stones,

though they can’t talk, seem to –

you know especially when you see

the mist rolling in from the hills

opposite, says Glyn, and step over

the ropes to where the bluestone

altar maybe would have been

and time doesn’t stop but there’s

this moment – once you feel it

it doesn’t go – when time is

fluid, vocable, very slow – the

middle of June, the middle of the

year, and you just stand there

in the stones thinking or saying

to yourself you’re not here but

I’ll be seeing you soon.

Date: 20 June 2019

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