Skip to main content

Places of Poetry is inspired by the great epic poem of English and Welsh national description, Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612-22). 

Places of Poetry Project: stunning new map of England and Wales to provide inspiration for thousands of poems

A stunning digital map of England and Wales will provide the inspiration for thousands of new poems celebrating the diversity and history of both countries.

The map has been created as part of a new project, Places of Poetry, which aims to encourage people to think about the environment and history around them. The Places of Poetry map 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.

Contributors of all ages and backgrounds will be invited to write poems and “pin” them to specific locations: from iconic historical sites to places of personal significance. Writers can choose where to pin their poem, whether it is on a town, village, local landmark or street-corner. The project is supported by some of the country’s most innovative and well-known poets, who will be supporting a series of public events this summer.

Places of Poetry is led by the poet and Radio 4 regular Paul Farley of Lancaster University and the academic Professor Andrew McRae at the University of Exeter.

The 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.

Professor McRae said: “We hope the map will inspire people to write, whatever their age or experience, and fill the map with thousands of new poems about places that mean something to them.

“The aim is to encourage people to think about heritage from different angles, such as environmental, industrial, religious, cultural or sporting. We want to celebrate the diversity, history and character of the places around us.”

Places of Poetry is inspired by the great epic poem of English and Welsh national description, Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612-22). This massive 15,000-line poem, published with unique maps by the engraver William Hole, uses places and natural features of the land as points of entry into historical narratives. Both Professor Farley and Professor McRae have spent years working with Poly-Olbion. Now, they want to use crowd-sourcing to generate multiple poetic perspectives on the significance of places 400 years after Drayton composed his poem.

Professor McRae said: “Poetry has been used across the centuries to reflect on places and their histories. We’re using modern technology to reinvigorate this model, and we hope that as many people as possible get involved. We are excited to see where people pin their poems, and what they say about the places that matter to them.”

The project will be promoted through a programme of events at heritage sites this summer, each supported by a poet-in-residence. Locations will be: Avebury (National Trust), Stonehenge (English Heritage), Ely Cathedral, Caernarvon Castle, The Roman Baths, River Severn, Big Pit National Coal Museum, Peak District National Park (National Trust), Hadrian’s Wall Housesteads Fort  (National Trust), Byker Community Trust, Wordsworth Trust (Dove Cottage), Sherwood Forest and The Kia Oval.

Poets in residence are: Will Harris, Jo Bell, Sean O’Brien, Jen Hadfield, Sarah Howe, Zaffar Kunnial, Gillian Clarke, Neil Rollinson, Isabel Galleymore, Kayo Chingonyi, Daljit Nagra, and Jack Underwood.

Downloadable materials are available on the project website to enable individuals and organisations to become involved, creating their own activities and approaches to writing poems of place and heritage. Developed in association with The Poetry Society, the toolkits have been adapted for writers of different ages and levels of experience, heritage sites, arts organisations and schools.

The Arts Council’s Director of Literature, Sarah Crown said: “I’m delighted that Arts Council England is supporting this exciting and innovative new platform. Poetry has always played a critical role in connecting us to the places we love, and in which we live our lives; I hope this will encourages people everywhere both to immerse themselves in our country’s poetic heritage, and to share their personal connections with it.”

The Places of Poetry website will be live from 31 May to 4 October. More details are available at

Date: 31 May 2019

Read more University News