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The Map as Poetry

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I've long felt that a good map os a thing of beauty, something to savour and linger over. A piece of poetry, if you will. Reading the names of places, studying the landscape, feeling the movement of waters and people . . . . I'm not a poet so I'll leave it to one to describe it all. Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem called The Map. Here it is:

The Map

Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
Along the fine tan sandy shelf
is the land tugging at the sea from under?

The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still.
Labrador's yellow, where the moony Eskimo
has oiled it. We can stroke these lovely bays,
under a glass as if they were expected to blossom,
or as if to provide a clean cage for invisible fish.
The names of seashore towns run out to sea,
the names of cities cross the neighboring mountains
--the printer here experiencing the same excitement
as when emotion too far exceeds its cause.
These peninsulas take the water between thumb and finger
like women feeling for the smoothness of yard-goods.

Mapped waters are more quiet than the land is,
lending the land their waves' own conformation:
and Norway's hare runs south in agitation,
profiles investigate the sea, where land is.
Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colors?
--What suits the character or the native waters best.
Topography displays no favorites; North's as near as West.
More delicate than the historians' are the map-makers' colors.



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Brian Regan, in his recent new special on Comedy Central, talked about the tv show Dora the Explorer and apparently that show has a song that goes "I'm the map, I'm the map. I'm the map, I'm the map. I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'M THE MAP! etc.". Now that's poetry! ;) And as Brian says, guess which character sings the song.
(just do a search for Brian Regan and I'm the map)

Dave Barnes
Map Geek



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National Poetry Map!

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