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. (more…)