In a Time of Maps

Refugees and crossing borders. Not since the aftermath of the Second World War has Europe experienced such mass migration of people; by boat, on trains, most of them walking. Leaving landscapes overcome by conflict and employing maps to guide them to places of sanctuary: we hope.

If you are a migrant a journey on foot is perilous, and in 2015 the reason for such migratory movements is to escape conflict and violence.

A journey on foot is also an integrative activity: the legs move, and the mind wanders, being forced to concentrate on immediate logistical realities such as stepping on uneven ground, the brain is freed up and perhaps temporarily released from the dreadful recollections of conflicts elsewhere. As soon as it starts moving the brain enters new territory and the process of healing might start as the mind drifts and the gift of forgetting begins.

In the 18th century to set off for a walk on a public road was to take in the prospect of many dangers; to place oneself amongst the poor and the filth and horrors of the road. William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s walks were pursued wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs. They took difficult weather conditions as further opportunity to immerse themselves in the landscape.
Wordsworth as well as a nature poet was also a poet of the dispossessed. He published his first volume of poetry in 1793 the year the Napoleonic War broke out. Some of his greatest works from the 1790s – The Ruined Cottage, Salisbury Plain – is poetry about suffering and the marginalised: victims of war. There are some striking parallels between the years 1793 -1812 and now in 2015.

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Opening Wye is both a poem and a map. It is a response to landscape, but it is also a poem about the fragility of borders and of what home means. The poem house takes the form of a printed map of the Wye Valley and the poem is in the form of a Turkish map-fold. The cover unfolds to reveal the both the map and the poem. The cover can be turned back to become a rest so that the poem can be read; in much the same way as we might consult a map so that we can find our way home.

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