Literature, Place, and Belonging
Many writers utilise place to bring their stories to life and to illustrate ways that their feelings and identity are tied to a particular location. Through mesmerising descriptions and the use of language techniques, coupled with their awe of a setting, it can feel like you’ve been transported to a place without ever having been there. I also love reading about places I know, as I can resonate with the thoughts and feelings of the speaker.
Causley’s wealth of poems based in Cornwall are indicative of the ties he felt to his native land. The use of peaceful, natural imagery paints Launceston, and Cornwall more generally, as a blissful place which Causley is most drawn to. Colloquial language and references to specific areas that only locals would know – Zig Zag Path and the two eagles outside Eagle House Hotel to name a few – illustrate his connections to the area. His use of place feels very personal, and the reader is invited to see the area through Causley’s eyes. He expertly captures the beauty of the world around him, and his writing reflects how at home and peaceful he felt in Launceston. The success of the literary events in Launceston, including the Causley Commemorative Festival and the Heritage Weekend show how Charles’ emotive descriptions resonate with readers, as locals feel the same pride and love for their sleepy little town, and visitors swarm to there to celebrate his work and see the area for themselves.
Wordsworth’s poetry is similarly emotive and captures both the beauty of the Lake District and his admiration of it. He uses peaceful, rural imagery to convey these picturesque surroundings and reinforce the bliss he feels. Last year I took my own literary-inspired trip to the Lake District and seeing Wordsworth’s world come to life was mesmerising. Seeing the ‘huge peaks’ of the mountains and the ‘rocky coves’ surrounding the lakes as described in The Prelude, as well as the ‘golden daffodils’ so like those in I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud was an unforgettable experience, and it was easy to feel the same adoration as Wordsworth and understand why he felt such a sense of belonging and being tied to the Lakes.
Thomas Hardy’s novels, set in fictional Wessex, based on Dorset, are fascinating for me. I grew up very near to the Dorset border and one of my best friends lives in the county, so I’ve always loved reading his interpretations of places I knew and imagine how they’ve changed since the time he was writing. Hardy was one of the first writers I had heard of who was from and wrote about the area I was from, and I always feel inspired to explore the areas near my hometown after reading his work.
Being a student living away from home in Exeter, I can see both the beauty of the new place I live in and its surroundings, especially through Causley and his depictions of nearby Cornwall, and can also read poems and literature from closer to my home and appreciate the area I was once so desperate to get away from. I think that the way poetry, and literature more broadly, can transport you to a place and see it in a new light is wonderful, and admire any writer who can use their work to convey a location and their own place in it so well.
Words by Abigail Manley