PLIX Spatial Poetry: Reflections from the Beta-Testing Process 🌎

Hello hello, everyone! It’s that time again: the PLIX team has recently wrapped up an initial activity co-design with MIT Media Lab graduate student Hua Xi–an artist and poet who has worked with the Data + Feminism Lab–and now it’s time to beta-test! With Hua, we’ve developed PLIX Spatial Poetry, an activity that combines poetry and creative writing with local history, geography, and creative map-making. We’re so excited to share these ideas with our community :tada: :world_map: :pen:

On this thread, you’ll be hearing from the PLIX beta-testing team (a dedicated group of 18 librarians from the PLIX community), who will be sharing reflections about the playtesting process, ideas for refining or creating new learning materials for Spatial Poetry, and tinkering with activity prompts and exploring new ones through remixes!

Want to join in on the fun?! Feel free to join the beta-testing team! We’ll be having several meetings between now and the end of November, including “Spatial Poetry open hours” to engage in shared making time online with fellow testers. You can find dates and times for these sessions on the onboarding document, which also includes some tips about how and where to get started, and what to share on this thread.


Reporting out from week one, our on-boarding week :slight_smile:

We’ll have 17 library professionals joining us on this five-week adventure (they’ll be introducing themselves, and sharing a bit more about their interests interests/context, below). Here’s a group photo from our first session this week:

As part of the launch, we heard from Hua Xi (plugging their work again, here) who has developed the prompts for Spatial Poetry as part of their graduate work at the MIT Media Lab. Hua has led several online workshops on the topics of how places got their names, how this connects to language and (creative) writing, and how communities are actively engaged in renaming efforts that address local history. Writing/crafting Spatial Poems is one–creative–way to engage this process.

As part of the playtesting process, I’m excited to dig into the local history of where I live, Somerville, MA. (Shout out to @1KerryOD who is also representing Somerville in beta-testing this round!) In the past few years, there have been a lot of new efforts related to climate justice in the community, and I’m hoping to explore or address some of these concepts through the Spatial Poems I create.

To highlight some inspirations, in the early co-design process, Hua introduced me to the work of Mieko Shiomi, a Japanese artist and composer who was one of the major figures in the Fluxus movement. Shiomi created an entire series of spatial poems that took different forms; in one of my favorites, she sent prompts to her friends all around the world, and compiled the answers they provided into artistic (and rather quirky) maps. (It will be a design challenge to think about I can create maps inspired by this process that connect to environmental/climate justice :slight_smile:).Here’s an example of the prompts and how they were transposed onto a global map:

I’ve recently also discovered, Mapping Self in Society project, developed at Vanderbilt University. It’s a teaching framework that encourages self-reflection in relation to place, and outlines a series of activities that connect nicely to some of the core concepts of Spatial Poetry. I’ll plan to dig into some of these prompts in parallel, and share-out how they can be used to influence some of the prompts we explore as part of the beta-testing process.

Some of the key questions they ask, as part of the five-activity series: * Why are historical maps relevant to a map of my daily round today?

  • How are neighborhoods changing where I live and travel over space and time?
  • Do catastrophes change neighborhoods (flood, tornado, gentrification)?
  • Are there significant “stories” in your daily round (changing residence)?
  • How do stories told about society (thematic maps) relate to telling your story?

That’s all for now! Looking forward to others’s introductions! :frog:


Hi! My name is Jacqui, I am a library assistant at Dana Neighborhood Library in the Long Beach (CA) Public Library system. I am planning our youth programming as we begin opening for group activities. I was drawn to participate in the Spatial Poetry Beta because we are planning on hosting Poetry Out Loud (POL) events for local high schoolers in December and January. (Also, I love all PLIX activities :slight_smile: ) POL is a national poetry recitation competition. So in support of that, I wanted to introduce creative poetry writing as well. And understanding the map of our community is so cool to me. It seems especially relevant as we are undergoing various political redistricting processes, and acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ lands. In Long Beach, we are living on the land of the Puvungna People of the Tongva Nation. So linking the poetry and mapping feels pretty powerful. I am not yet sure how it will all play out but looking forward to having this group as support and counsel.
I am adding a few photos from Long Beach, and one of a current USC Library exhibit. Also, here is an interesting link to a story map about Los Angeles County:

A Long Beach park at sunset

Long Beach City Hall

Dana Neighborhood Library


Very cool! I am really interested in exploring mapping as part of this project and will def take a look at the Mapping Self project. Thanks!


Hi, Jean Daley here, from Erving Public Library in western Massachusetts. I live just up the hill, a lovely 20-minute commute through a state forest and over two dirt roads. image|398x500

What sparked my interest in spatial poetry? A complete lack of any clue as to what it would be! I’ve never been a huge poetry fan, but I liked what I read by Hua Xi. And I kept thinking, “What the heck does ‘spatial poetry’ mean?” I love learning about things I have no information about.

I’m excited to work on a poem about my life and the road we live on, using a map of the road. I also want to try some map activity, erasure or collage. I can’t wait to go to work and see what maps I might be able to find in our discarded books.

Pictures are an old map of Erving, where I work, and Wendell, where I live.
The French King Bridge, which traverses the Connecticut River and is featured on our library cards. the river divides Erving from Gill.
One of the many grave rubbings donated to our library by Dorothy Travesari.


I could use some help printing maps a big enough size to work on and with sharp, clear print. When I try to enlarge maps from the Library of Congress the print gets fuzzy and I still need a magnifying lens to work on it! Help!


Hi y’all!

I’m Savannah and I work in the children’s department at the Library Station, a branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library District in Springfield, MO. The Library Station is what we like to call a “destination library” and is transportation themed, so we have a lot of transportation and map imagery around.

I was interested in participating in this project because it combines one of my great loves, poetry, and a major theme of our library branch and Springfield local history, maps. Springfield is the birthplace of Route 66, so maps and transportation are a big deal here. Additionally, Springfield sits on Kickapoo and Osage land and the trail of tears runs through the northern part of town. I am particularly interested in the renaming idea and how that might relate to honoring Native history in our area.

I supervise two teen volunteers that work in our department and will be gleefully including them in the beta testing process. They are both incredibly creative and I know they’ll contribute some great ideas. Also, I will be working alongside my coworker, Abby, who is also a part of this beta testing group. I can’t wait to get started on this project and see what we come up with!

A few images of the Library Station:


Trail of Tears in Springfield:

Birthplace of Route 66 festival:



Jean can you give us an example of a map you tried printing out, and how it looks when printed?

If I understand your question, I’d use Photopea (a knockoff of Adobe Photoshop). For example, in this map of Boston in the David Rumsey collection I downloaded the biggest version of it, and I set the crop ratio to 1650 x 1275, which is the pixel size of a printer paper for a printer that does 150 px/in. I can find a section I want to print and crop the image there. As long as the little annotation on the tool isn’t too much smaller than 1650 x 1275 the printout shouldn’t end up being fuzzy. Then you could print that piece you found to fill your piece of paper. If you are able to print 11x17 you have even more pixels to work with!

Screen Shot 2021-10-26 at 4.40.04 PM

Other programs like Adobe Illustrator, Acrobat, or Reader give you an option to print tiles of a large image. If I were to print the map part of the Boston map I linked to earlier without changing resolution, I could print it ~60" wide with the full 150 pixels per inch resolution my printer can do.

If you give us more details about what you’re trying to do, we can troubleshoot with you!


Hi Michelle, I tried to print maps of three small towns, Hull, Erving, and Wendell, all in Massachusetts. I used various maps, but because the towns are small, I need to blow them up to get enough street names. By the time I got the picture large enough, it was blurred. Unfortunately, I’m home now until next week and don’t have access to a printer. I’ll try this Monday, and work on other things until then. Thanks! Here’s an example:

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That is one coooool looking library!

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Hi Jean, I took a look at the linked map. I can see what you mean. The total pixel width is only 500, so it’s always going to be fuzzy. (It also has a © watermark so you may not want to use this particular image!)

Does your library have any historical maps you could photograph with better resolution? Maybe Massachusetts has a map/historical archive? California has the OAC. I am not finding much, but here is a bird’s eye view of Erving with some streets labeled.

You make me realize that one interesting thing to dig up or build together in this co-design would be a database of digital, public archives that other libraries could use when they do this activity.


Hey there – my name is Ryan or Ry [either’s good!] and I work in youth services at the Burton Barr Central Library [the downtown branch of the Phoenix Public Library] on Akimel O’odham & Pee Posh lands. I’m thrilled to be participating in the :sparkles: spatial poetry :sparkles: beta-testing – just reading through the first few posts I’ve already encountered such a slew of incredible resources that are new to me – thank you!!

As I’ve been thinking about the concept of spatial poetry, there are a few things that have been swirling to the top for me.

  1. THE GROUND I STAND ON IS NOT MY GROUND (by Collier Nogues) – this incredible collection of erasure poetry is one of the most activating pairings of print/digital books that I’ve come across. The printed version of the book is comprised of a full collection of poems that are all erasures of “historical documents related to the development and aftermath of the Pacific War, especially on the island of Okinawa.” Nogues grew up on a U.S. air base located on Okinawa, and this project is a way to excavate the personal and political histories of militarization and colonization on the island through poetic erasures. Importantly, each printed poem includes a QR code that links to an interactive webpage which allows the reader to explore the original texts by moving their mouse over the erasure and sifting through some additional reflections on the documents’ context(s). I love the integration, the spirit of open access, and [of course!] the poems! I’ve rarely seen a work of erasure poetry that creates a intermeshed “whole” from so many separate source texts. Would definitely recommend this book :open_book:


  1. CONTEXT POETRY // FRONTERA SIGN POETRY PROJECT (by Heriberto Yépez) – I really love this short piece in which Heriberto Yépez [who now, I believe, styles his name Heriberto Yépez] reflects on his installation of 24 “public visual poems” in Tijuana [his home town] during the 1998 Festival de la Frontera [Border Arts Festival]. Yépez created each of these poems so that they resembled city signage you might otherwise encounter while walking around. Importantly, the signs themselves were semi-transparent, so everything in the background (the physical/spatial/textual context) became part of the poem. In his words, these sign-poems created “a page that is also a window.” As I’ve been thinking about this Spatial Poetry activity through PLIX, I’ve felt moved to return to this piece by Yépez [originally published in issue 4 of Tripwire] which provokes important questions about how to integrate poetry into our physical surroundings while reading these spaces as inherently poetic to begin with.

frontera sign poetry project - yepez

  1. STRAV.ART – A year or two ago someone showed me strava art for the first time and I was floored. Basically, people have been creating images and text by using an app called Strava to visualize the routes they’ve taken while biking, walking, kayaking, etc. I think that this is such a cool way to activate maps, and it makes me wonder what patterns I might be able to find by looking at an aerial view of the streets in my city. It feels a little bit like the act of mapping your own constellations when looking at the night sky! I also imagine that there are cool subversive strategies that can be used to counteract/unsettle fixed associations with particular geographies. So many possibilities!!

strava art

Ok…I think I’ll stop there. But again, thanks so much for putting this spatial poetry activity in motion, and I’m grateful to have the chance to participate in the beta-testing with so many wonderful library workers from around the country! Excited to see how things unfold!!

Until soon,
Ryan :sunflower:


Hi everyone,
I’m Angela from Berkley in Southeastern MA. We have about 6,000 people here and our town is quite small. I could only find one small historic picture of our town

Here’s my map

Here’s a short poem:
Berkley’s way out there
In the Boondocks,
A retreat in the hillside,
Near the Taunton River.
At the common crossing,
On North Main and Berkley,
The Middle Schoolers meet.
Our library and town hall
and historical museum’s neat.
From our bridge to 24
All folk you will greet.

Using google maps, I created a list of assets on a map for our community

But it’s a work iim progress.


A new photo with poem composited on top


Boston favorite places poem


Hi All, Sami from Bend, Oregon here. I’m a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library, which has six locations throughout the county. We often talk about Deschutes County in three parts, Bend, North County and South County. I find it interesting how it still leaves certain parts of the county out and combines a few unlike communities. I find that maps often make these generalizations as well - districting, state lines, etc. Man made, yet not responsive.

I felt compelled to join in as I’ve enjoyed beta testing with PLIX in the past, and have been needing to brush up on my poetry! We have one librarian that goes all out for poetry month and I’d love to be able to support her more.

For prompt one, I started with a bit of playing… I use Gaia GPS for overlanding and hiking adventures, and one of the awesome features the have is map layering. I found some historic topo maps, layered them and recorded what is taken away and added over time. It felt I was watching time act as the erasure aspect. I focused on Bend, Oregon and while the landscape doesn’t change, you certainly can see the impact of man. Feel free to watch here. Haven’t found a way to include poetry in this one yet, but it’s a start.

I also found an awesome map, “Oregon State Map – Places and Landmarks”, which as the title states highlights places and landmarks in Oregon. With the juxtaposition of nature along side the impact of man, I started looking at the names. I ended up blacking out all of the terms that can be attributed by the white man, and leaving only words that describe nature, either in a Native language or English, as well as including tribal names. I then created a list poem highlighting all of the natural elements that are left by the map.

Finally, I created a collage map poem. I was inspired by what someone said during our meet up and found some Paris maps over time, cropped and overlaid them using Canva. I also used a little animation, cause why not! So we have maps from 1900, 1919, 1920 and 1932, with the base map from 1900. All of these came from Old Maps of Paris. Plus a short poem drawing words from the maps themselves (hard to read but says - Paris, notre ville monumental et etranger.)


Stephanie Stoner here, from Phoenix Public Library. I a youth services librarian, looking forward to sharing this program with school age kiddos in the future as well as take part in this co-design project and learn from you all.
My reflections on this week:
Not being a poet, and not being super well-versed in maps or what I wanted to do, I was initially not sure which direction to take.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my move from the Bay Area back to my childhood home, Arizona and how quickly it happened, and how bittersweet it’s been. I began thinking I wanted to inspect that closer- my feelings about the two places, that is - Phoenix and San Francisco.
I spent hours on the Rumsey and the Library of Congress websites, searching out historic maps- falling down a rabbit hole or two- exploring, printing, taking different directions, becoming somewhat concerned I wouldn’t find a proper-sized map to work with. I was finding that the large documents were not accessible with my limited computer software and that I would need to seek out actual maps or find an atlas and make copies of it.
Another thought I had about this prompt- a challenge might be the sheer fact that many maps have names, not a lot of words that lend themselves to poetry and how that would be challenging. If a town is full of numbered streets or proper names, how would I write a personal poem? How to approach it- write the poem first? Find the map and let it guide the words? Erasure or collage?
At some point, I began thinking about using a transit map. I love the underground lines- brightly colored, very straight and graphic, clean and simple, like the New York Subway lines or SF Muni or the London Underground, Mind the Gap, etc. An upcoming trip to SF had me looking up its Muni map. The moment I looked at it, I knew instantly this was the direction I wanted to go- so many personal memories tied to the different train car lines. Seeing the words “ocean” and “sunset’, I knew where this poem was going.
I printed out several copies of the map and grabbed a sharpie. I decided to try my hand at erasure. Preserving the words, “Ocean” and “Sunset”, I paused and thought about what the sunset at Ocean Beach evoked. While inspecting each train car stop, its name, it’s letters, I began seeing words, creating words with the available letters before me, following a “readable” direction. Printing out several was helpful, because I found it helpful to use a few different ones to write out some options and their alternates. On one sheet, I had the word, “Embarking” with Embarcadero and 2nd’ and King. On another, I’d tried different letters and a thought entirely different. Creating the word “Centering” with Civic Center and 2nd and King. The words I was able to form was leading what I would say, but the general feeling I wanted to convey, would be expressed- I only had to be creative and work with the letters and words before me, rather than in my mind ready to put on a blank sheet of paper or blank screen.
Once I created the poem (short and sweet about how San Francisco has my heart), I set out to properly erase the extra words and letters. Having Canva Pro and using it for literally everything in my life, I began to play around with erasing it in digital format. I decided to use a 3D block that looked like buildings that might be represented on a map.
Co-labbing was great, I found it incredibly helpful and fun hearing about everyone’s process.
When I was done with the poem, I was able to share it with others and get some ideas on where to take it from there.!


Hi! My name is Sam, I am a Digital Services Librarian at Wiggin Memorial Library in Stratham, NH.

I also did not know what spatial poetry was before we started this, but immediately connected with the idea of working with maps and thinking more consciously about how things in our communities came to be named what they are. I think it could potentially be a great activity to do with several of our community partners.

For this prompt I decided to work with a map of Stratham New Hampshire from 1793. I found the digital copy on the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center’s website . But my library also has a print of this map hanging up.

It’s titled “Plan of the town of Stratham” which got me thinking about community planning and shared spaces. So I first printed it out and went through and highlighted all the shared spaces on this map; workplaces, schools, etc with a sharpie. Then I did a little blackout poetry at the bottom. I then went back and did this digitally in paint, because the actual words were a little hard to see on the print copy.


This week’s prompt was Found Map Poem: derive a poem from a map by performing erasure or collage on the language of a map. I had a printed map of Somerville, MA, large enough to see every street name in the city. I stared at it for a LONG time, and noticed that, while most streets are named after people, many are also nature-related (or botanical, more specifically). I circled a bunch of streets that seemed interesting to me–mostly in the latter sphere–and were potentially useful for illustrating or describing an environment. I then created a short poem by using only names taken from the streets (with a few added linker words; those are the ones in lowercase). Here’s what I wrote (and made a little decor for to make it look zine-y).



I love this! Blackout poetry is so so fun. I did a blackout poetry passive activity in our teen department in September and they came up with some pretty cool results! I find blackout poetry to be a non-intimidating gateway activity to help people become more comfortable with the idea of poetry. Sometimes writing and reading poetry is intimidating because it can be very intimate and technical. Usually blackout poetry is more easy-going though!