What do different kinds of travel or landscape writing offer us?
Travel guides are instructive. Most suggest that there are correct and incorrect routes to destinations. Some incorporate GPS locations so you can identify where you are; most include maps to show you where to go, and many include photographs so that you know what your destination will look like.
If we look at Ickornshaw moor, Wainwright’s Pennine Way Companion (reprinted manuscripts which combine ‘authenticity’ with ‘authority’) simply notes the presence of ‘three small wooden chalets with brick chimneystacks.’ The Trailblazer Guide identifies these as ‘several shooting huts’ and explains nearby Cowling has ancient shooting rights.’
In contrast, poetry can offer a different kind of insight. Armitage’s ‘Above Ickornshaw, Black Huts’, peoples the huts, and gives them a mood and a tone which draws on their location, as well as the history and class differences of the region. The poem names a specific place but gestures towards social practices more broadly. In the final instance it is ambiguous however, rather than didactic.
The metaphorical language of poetry enables a comparison of the landscape with environments or scenes which might be unusual or conflicting. At the same time poetic form, rhyme, rhythm, metre, and pace can express how we interact with our surroundings. Pauses, end-stops, and unexpected stresses can cause us to stumble – alliteration, rhyme, and metre can convey speed or fluidity.