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Thomas A. Clark

The Hidden Place

The Hidden Place is a poem which takes the form of a map of Scotland on which all the place names have been replaced by phrases giving the original meaning of the names.

Places are often hidden behind their names. We see a name on the map or drive past a road sign and think we know the place. Of course, real knowledge is a slower process. Yet hidden within each name is a sense, the original meaning of the name, which may offer a clue to a place’s particular identity. To know the meaning of a name is to begin to reveal the uniqueness of a place.

Place names are repositories of local stories, telling of old cultures, history, geography, industry, religion and myth. Scottish names have their origin in several languages; Gaelic, Pictish, Norse, English, French, Latin and Scots. Each name is a piece of condensed folk poetry: the field of smoke, the sparkling skerries, the little shelter.

It changes our perception of a place to learn that Argyll is the land of the stranger, Greenock is a sunny hill, that Milngavie is a windmill, or that Pollockshaws is a little pool in the woods.

The print published by Ingleby Gallery is part of a larger project, The Hidden Place, initiated by the poet Thomas A Clark in which he proposes to install road signs across Scotland making the meanings of place names accessible to everyone who passes by the bay of the bent grass, the place of pebbles, the ridge of tears. The Hidden Place is one long poem about the land and its people.

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