Dart – or the spirit of place

I have been doing a bit of research into the concept genius loci: In contemporary usage, genius loci usually refers to a location’s distinctive atmosphere, or a “spirit of place“.

A fantastic example on literature’s ability to capture genius loci is to be found in Alice Oswald’s beautiful poem Dart

Dart is a long poem about the River Dart, where the voices of all the people who live and work alongside the river has been a source of inspiration to the artist. This is how Alice Oswald described her own project in the beginning of “the construction process”:

One of the aims of this poem would be to reconnect the Local Imagination to its environment – in particular, in these years of water shortages and floods, to increase people’s awareness of water as a natural resource. But I’m also interested, for its own sake, in the idea of a many-voiced poem, a poem that benefits from the freshness and expertise of ordinary people.


Over the a passage of two years Oswald recorded conversations with people who knew the river. She then used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters – linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a songline from the source to the sea.

Dart – excerpt

Who’s this moving alive over the moor?

I don’t know, all I know is walking. Get dropped off the military track from Oakehampton and head down into Cranmere pool. It’s dawn, it’s a huge sphagnum kind of wilderness, and an hour in the morning is worth three in the evening. You can hear plovers whistling, your feet sink right in, it’s like walking on the bottom of a lake.

What I love is one foot in front of another. South south west and down the contours. I go slipping between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out.












4 Comments Add yours

  1. I Dart and Oswald’s other poetry, especially A Sleepwalk on the Severn. Her new long poem Memorial is very good as well.

  2. kartikasays says:

    A really beautiful piece of writing….Kartika

    1. Sigrun says:

      I love Oswald’s project, very inspiring – wouldn’t you agree?

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