Aaron Angello first noticed the powerful relation between poetry and place around five years ago while working on his doctorate in English literature at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“We read Charles Olsen’s “Maximus,” poems which take place in Gloucester, and Lorraine Niedecker’s “Paeon to Place” -- all these poems which are specifically tied to location,” Angello says of a class he took which examined the relationship between poetry and place.
That lead Angello to create the Denver Poetry Map, a map that enlivens Denver with poems inspired by specific locations around the city.
“My initial impulse was, 'How I can I get some of these incredibly talented poets to write poems that are somehow associated with very specific places?'” Angello says. “So that you could actually go to that place, read the poem and have some sort of experience of the relationship between the poem itself and the space.”
It's all part of Angello's doctoral research on the intersection between digital technology and the humanities. The digital side only took him a few days. He built the site last November, using Google Maps. Then, he reached out to the Front Range poetry community for contributions to populate the map.
- To listen to Denver poets reading from their work, scroll down the story
Some poets were initially confused about the assignment, thinking they had to write verses about a specific place. But Angello says he welcomes more nuanced connections between poems and locations.
“I’m interested in the more abstract connections to place that a poem can have -- what in a place might inspire something in a poem?” Angello says.
The Denver Poetry Map currently has nearly 50 locations on it and Angello plans to keep adding new poems as they come in from contributors.
“I want more and more people to read the poetry that’s written in and about Denver,” Angello says. “I hope that it keeps going, growing and filling up with poems.”
Below, a selection of poems that currently populate Angello's map.
Writer: Julie Carr
Location: Thump Coffee, 1201 E 13th Ave
Poem: “A Fourteen Line Poem on Capitol Hill”
Denver poet, teacher and publisher Julie Carr wrote her poem “A Fourteen Line Poem on Capitol Hill,” at Thump Coffee, a busy coffee house in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Carr is often to be found at Thump Coffee writing at her laptop. She feels a sense of community there and her poem is inspired by this feeling.
“It’s kind of about being out in the city in a certain way,” Carr says. “I come to the cafe, I always run into my friends. The energies that connect us are all kind of in the air of the city."
Read Carr’s poem in full here.
Writer: Michael Martinez
Location: City Park
Poem: “Reflections on Walter Benjamin at City Park Written on the 8th of June, 2010”
Michael Martinez is a literary scholar and poet who often comes to City Park to write in his journal and study. His contribution to the Poetry Map, “Reflections on Walter Benjamin at City Park Written on the 8th of June, 2010” is a somber meditation on the lives of 20th century European intellectuals including Gershom Scholem, Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin.
The poem came to Martinez when he was sitting by the lake in City Park, reading the letters of Scholem and Benjamin.
Martinez says the Poetry Map has given him a whole new way to experience Denver.
“I did walk down a street at some point and go, wait a minute, this was a moment that someone wrote a poem here!’” he says. “And that kind of charges that location with a kind of meaning it didn’t have before.”
Read Martinez’s poem in full here.
Writer: Joe Lennon
Location: The Richard T Castro Denver Human Services Center, 1200 Federal Blvd
Joe Lennon is a poet, doctoral candidate at the University of Denver, and teacher. He came up with his contribution to the Poetry Map after a visit to the Human Services building on Federal Boulevard to apply for Medicaid.
“A lot of people are coming through here asking for assistance from the government,” Lennon says. “So the poem started with this of idea of asking something which is larger than us to help us and to try to talk to it. At the end you hope for some kind of answer from the city, the government, the country.”
Read Lennon’s poem in full here.