Spatial Poetry
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Spatial Poetry

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Have experiences about, insights into, or questions about this activity to share with us or others? Head over to the Spatial Poetry space on the PLIX Forum! Sign up for our newsletter to be sure to hear about our next Make'n'Meet workshop.

Overview

Welcome to PLIX Spatial Poetry! This activity combines the expressive flexibility of poetic language and local data research skills behind local data research to encourage a re-imagination of maps and renewed understanding of place. Poems have historically influenced many of the place names we know today. Many contemporary poets rethink the ties between language, place and belonging. Similarly, participants will become aware issues of place-naming in America, particularly its historical ties to colonization, and possibly connect with local renaming campaigns or future naming initiatives where they live. It draws on current topics in geography, poetry, and journalism, and media-making.

Spatial Poetry at a Glance

This activity can operate as either a structured workshop or a drop-in activity.

  • Age Range: Ages 5 & up (able to read and write)
  • Group Size: 10 - 15 participants
  • Number of Facilitators: 1 - 2
  • Activity Length: 30 to 60 minutes
  • Cost: a few cents for photocopies, printing, or paper and art supplies

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Share the love: Tell us how you use this activity guide on the PLIX Forum or via our PLIX Remix report form. Remember, our guide is just a jumping off point โ€” feel free change or create new design elements to suit your local community!

Supply Kit

Below you'll find some materials that we've found work well for this activity, but it's not necessary to have them all! The prompt you'll explore determines what materials you'll want to have on hand.

Printed, cut, and folded Spatial Poetry zines (one per participant)
Various printed maps, historical and contemporary (see our mapping resources list for some places to start)
Paper (with or without grids; you can generate a wide variety of styles at Griddzly)
Markers, colored pencils, or crayons, especially black ones (like Sharpies, for blacking out text)
Scissors or X-Acto knives
Large sheets / rolls of butcher paper (for larger mapmaking)
Tape or glue sticks
Wite-out / correction fluid
Laptops / computer access for research
Optional: We Never Wanted Him Here zine from the MIT Data Feminism Lab.

Spatial Poetry Zine

Remixable / editable version here โ†’ NEW! Google Docs zine format

One-page PDF to print here โ†’

PLIXSpatialPoetryZine0.1.pdf6272.1KB

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A note about zines: Our PLIX zines are designed to be supplementary resources for patrons and librarians to refer to during workshops. They're a quick and easy way for people to learn some fundamentals. You can print them on 8.5x11" paper, and they're easy to assemble. Hereโ€™s a resource that shows you step-by-step how to cut and fold them after printing!

Facilitation

Workshop Prompts

The Spatial Poetry activity supplies can be used with a wide variety of workshop prompts (open the toggle for detailed descriptions of each prompt). Below you'll find a few that we love ๐Ÿ’•โ€” and we encourage you to come up with your own!

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๐Ÿšงย Street Shape Poem โ€”Trace the shape of a particular street and use that street and its intersections to write a poem.
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๐Ÿ”Žย Found Map Poem - Derive a poem from a map by performing "erasure" or "collage" on the language of a map.
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๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธWalk Poem - Take a walk around your area and write down notable places and street names that you see. Write a poem incorporating these words, in the order you saw them on your walk.
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๐ŸŒย Renaming Poem โ€” Write a poem where each line is a different renaming for a particular street or place. The new names can be words or phrases or even sentences.
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๐Ÿ“™ย Publish, Perform, Place โ€” Choose a location for a site-specific reading series and/or a publication of poems created by patrons. Compile a one-time book or zine of everyone's works.
Savannah Hartje (Springfield, MO) titled this found poem "Life in Broad Brush Strokes".
Savannah Hartje (Springfield, MO) titled this found poem "Life in Broad Brush Strokes".
Sami Kerzel (Bend, OR) created a street shape poem using topography (or elevation), rather than a birds' eye view.
Sami Kerzel (Bend, OR) created a street shape poem using topography (or elevation), rather than a birds' eye view.
Jacqui Viale (Long Beach, CA) combined sculpture, collage, and poetry in her "shadow box" found poem.
Jacqui Viale (Long Beach, CA) combined sculpture, collage, and poetry in her "shadow box" found poem.
Sam Lucius (Stratham, NH) outlined place-names in an erasure poem.
Sam Lucius (Stratham, NH) outlined place-names in an erasure poem.
Ry Greene (Phoenix, AZ) created an animated collage map investigating the Rio Salado (Salt River) and how it connects to environmental justice.
Ry Greene (Phoenix, AZ) created an animated collage map investigating the Rio Salado (Salt River) and how it connects to environmental justice.

Making Example Projects

When preparing to facilitate a creative learning activity, we always recommend populating your space with diverse example projects. Feel free to print out the above examples from librarians in the PLIX community to help inspire your patrons! A good example project is thoughtfully designed to inspire your patrons, spark their curiosity, and be easy enough to understand to support them in getting started with the activity.

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Learn more about the art of the example in our PLIX Guide to Making Activity Examples.

Facilitation Tips

Since there are many ways to explore symmetry, patrons may need some guidance in how or where to get started. When facilitating this activity, we encourage you to support a tinkering mindset, and consider the following to culture a creative learning environment:

Facilitation Techniques to try with Spatial Poetryโ†’

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๐Ÿง ย  Prime the poetic pump.
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๐Ÿ‘ชย  Draw on rich, intergenerational knowledge.
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โฎ๏ธ Whose history?
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๐Ÿ”จย  Break boundaries!
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๐ŸšŒย  Navigate new "map" territories.
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๐Ÿงญย  Venture into the digital world.
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๐Ÿ“ฃย  Take it to the streets!

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Be sure to also check out our PLIX Facilitation Techniques for additional tips from the PLIX team to help you cultivate your own creative learning facilitation practice.

PLIX Spatial Poetry in Action

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Want to learn more about the development of Spatial Poetry? Check out this thread on the PLIX forum that includes a ton of project examples, and some reflections on the design process by librarian beta-testers!

About PLIX Spatial Poetry

This activity was developed as part of the PLIX Co-Design program, in which Media Lab researchers team up with public librarians to create new PLIX programming, in collaboration with poet and artist Hua Xi of the Data Feminism Lab's Audit the Streets Project.

Other ways to engage with the PLIX Beautiful Symmetry activity:

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Want to learn more about PLIX? Visit our homepage at plix.media.mit.edu.

Except where otherwise noted, all materials on this site are licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

The Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) is a project of the MIT Media Lab Digital Learning & Collaboration Studio. Except where otherwise noted, all materials on this site are licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Accessibility.