Sunday, January 08, 2006

The River Dart

It is interesting to compare the Dartmoor Sounds project with Alice Oswald’s much-praised poem Dart (2002). The poem uses local voices recorded by Oswald over two years as part of the Poetry Society’s Poetry Places scheme (most of the projects in this scheme were not directly connected to landscape, but there were some other Environmental Projects). In reproducing natural sounds and the conversation of people working on or enjoying the river, her writing deliberately aims for a written soundscape, (“a sound-map of the river” as she says in the poem’s introduction). However, the words of those she met are mediated through her poetry - we cannot tell how closely they resemble what was ‘actually’ said. In an interesting interview for the BBC she says that it was important to talk to people but forget some of what they said before writing the poem. Oswald emphasises that “all voices should be read as the river’s mutterings.”

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