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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Jelley

Exeter Poetry Pin

The first virtual poetry city.

It was just after the Exmoor Poetry Boxes book launch when the fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel shook the Exeter community. The fire ripped through buildings on Exeter cathedral green, jumping through roof spaces and gutting everything in it's path. When the blaze was finally extinguished there was little to salvage beyond the buildings facades and a hundreds of years of history literally went up in smoke.

The poetry boxes project had caught some great national TV and Exeter city council saw this and wondered if I could help and capture the deep sentiment of residents through words. Poetry Boxes seemed initially the ideal, but after some deliberation we went for the Poetry Pin web app instead, a digital poetry platform which tags poems to the very spot the author is stood.

'In response to the fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Exeter City Council wanted there to be a mechanism for the city residents to engage and share their thoughts and views about the city through means of poetry.

The aims of this project are designed to engage and inspire Exeter residents to reflect, consider and put their thoughts into words and enable the sharing of their experiences. The poems may be inspired by the fire or they may be about the city itself, their sense of place, importance of heritage or something else related to the city.

The geo location of each poem to the authors location adds a new physical dimension to poetry. Readers we need to travel to this specific location in order to read the authors pinned words, thus creating a sense of place and connection beyond the norm. Words will become woven into the canvas of this city, capturing moment, time and place.

Exeter Poetry Pin

Over Christmas we worked behind the scenes to redesign and sharpen up the Poetry Pin web app ready to turn a whole city into a poetry canvas! and on the 9th January 2017 the launch proceeded perfectly with Exeter becoming the worlds first virtual poetry city.

The system performed faultlessly (which was a relief!) and this Friday I have an appointment with Exeter College A Level creative writing pupils to geolocate and pin their words across the city, adding their marks to the virtual canvas.

So to round up here is a poem I wrote in response to the terrible fire, which are pinned and geolocated on the cathedral green in front of the gutted buildings where demolition has already begun.

As history turns on a cinder

Outwards and skywards free at last

Atomised away through soot and smoke

Her earthly cocoon left cold and broke

Now nought but facades for insurers to measure

No indicators of prescient mortal pleasures

Those wild histories which passed through her halls

Clarks and Gables and wedding balls

Royal Clarence has left the building

Her dizzying soul has spirited away

On a soot tipped dance and gas light play

She caught up her shroud that autumn morn

And all saw a wide eyed Angel born

No dampening down could contain her might

She rose and rose into the night

Discarding styles etched in her cloak

Egyptian skins Venetian glass

Such fresh-ling swiftness the first in her class

But not a moment longer could she linger

As history turns upon her cinder

Christopher Jelley © 2017

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