Pity Me, Durham, by Eric Haswell

In the long tradition of obsession with place-naming in the British Isles, there can be few contributions as simply beautiful as the title piece from 2009 T.S. Eliot-prize winning poet Jen Hadfield’s Nigh-No-Place. It took me a year from its publication to ‘discover’ for myself this incredible book, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve yet to buy Almanacs, her previous set from that most regarded of modern avatars, Bloodaxe Books.

 

In reading, and re-reading, “Nigh-No-Place” from its eponymous volume, I shifted from the initial adoration of its language – a landscape in and of itself, with consonant peaks and vowel valleys; rivers of dashed joinings and roads built of repetition – and began to wonder about these places Hadfield names.

Which brings us to the wonderful ‘crowd-sourced’ project, Geograph, an online attempt to gather photographs of every square on the Ordnance Survey grid of the British Isles, and organize them into a cartographic database of images of the landscape. Not all of Hadfield’s locations are in Britain – some are named as Canadian; others might not be part of the landscape itself, but buildings and roads, or part of the mythological landscape that hovers above the physical one. But many, indeed, were easy to find on Geograph’s easily searched database of imagery.

As an examination of Geograph, below is Hadfield’s poem with links to some of the locations mentioned – or, at least, my best guess as to what that location may be. But please, like seeing a film of your favorite book, these images aren’t meant to “become” the places in the poem – merely to represent an exercise: As a poem, Hadfield’s places and words stand alone, as you’ll hear quite significantly in the youtube video of her reading the poem in Wordsworth country.

Jen Hadfield reading “Nigh-No-Place” in Grasmere, the Lake District:

And the text, with links to Geograph photos of some of the near-as-can-tell locations.

[[Note: I certainly have the greatest of admiration for Hadfield and for Neil Astley and Bloodaxe – if either wishes me to take the text of the poem down, I’ll redo it such as to leave just the place names – which I think you’d have trouble claiming copyright over…]]

Nigh-No-Place by Jen Hadfield

I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;

And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts…

The Tempest

I will meet you at Pity Me Wood.

I will meet you at Up-To-No-Good.

I will meet you at Stank, Shank and Stye.

I will meet you at Blowfly.

I will meet you at Low Spying How.

I will meet you at Salt Pie.

I will meet you at Coppertop.

I will meet you at Scandale Bottom.

I will meet you at Crackpot Moor.

I will meet you at Muker.

I will meet you at Dirty Piece.

I will meet you at Booze, Alberta.

I will meet you at Bloody Vale.

I will meet you at Hunger Hill.

I will bring you to New Invention.

I will bring you to Lucky Seven.

I will bring you from Shivery Man.

I will bring you to The Lion and Lamb.

I will bring you to the North Light.

I will bring you to Quiet-The-Night.

I will bring you to Hush.

I will bring you to Hungry Hushes.

I will bring you to Grace, Alberta.

I will bring you to Nigh-No-Place.

I will meet you at Two O’ Clock Creek.

Will you go with me?

———–

Pity Me Wood at Pity Me, Co. Durham; Stank, Cumbria; Low Spying How, Cumbria; Crackpot Moor, North Yorkshire; Scandale Bottom, Lancashire; Muker, North Yorkshire; Bloody Vale, North Yorkshire; Hunger Hill, Staffordshire; New Invention, Shropshire; North Light, Shetland Islands; Nigh-No-Place, North Yorkshire

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