Tallulah Howarth

Teach Yourself Mapmaking – A personal response by Tallulah Howarth

What drew me to Jane Routh’s Teach Yourself Mapmaking? Possibly my own recurring thoughts about alternative solitary pilgrimages of our own making – to visit, for example, the birthplaces of queer icons around the UK. But that’s an idea bookmarked for another time. There is something, though, to be said about this self-sufficiency of ‘teaching yourself’ that appeals to me. It seems that often Routh has done just this – acquired learning through action, then has been able to share her wisdom with us all through poetry.

This collection is strongly rooted in place, and in a historical legacy of Routh’s own family tree that runs throughout, adorned with lush language. Present also is knowledge specific to Routh’s background of woodland management, and the lexicon of sailing. I think the opening poems’ focus on the ocean left me traversing its vastness for the rest of the pamphlet.

This felt rather fortuitous, as I had planned a solo date to Scarborough when the train tickets were going for half price. I borrowed my friend’s dinky digital camera that looked like a kid’s toy straight out of the 90s. The morning of, I put French Navy eyeliner under my eyes and made myself a mocha before setting off to get the train.

I had a beautifully contemplative day.

At risk of this being just a diary entry of my trip to Scarborough, I’ll share some of my personal standout poems from Routh’s collection. Elsewhere, Foresight, Waiting, Heart, Short Sentences without Electricity and All My Dead are all vital reading.

The poem that singularly floored me was Tell Me What Else (page 24). This poem toes the line between dream and reality perfectly, leaving an ample amount of ambiguity for the reader to dwell in. The line “show me how to think about infinity”, though linguistically declarative, feels disempowering. I thought about how often we ask people to do this for us, or subconsciously expect this of a lover. How we see individuals as infinity, refracted. A lesser spoken type of dehumanisation: glorification.

I thought of why I had come back here, a physical ritual to ‘reclaim’ my memories of the place. My housemate had laughed at that. How place and person had become entangled beyond comprehension.

With the backdrop of the sea as a soundscape, I knew I had to create an auditory element to my response. Find my DIY bedroom recording below, alongside the text of the recorded poem, ‘Devotion’.

Devotion by Tallulah Howarth

I sat by the sea until my hands went orange, then purple. I went home with my bag twice as heavy as when I arrived, now full of second-hand poetry books.

Much love to the Poetry Business for this opportunity to reflect and respond; to Jane Routh for her beautiful words; to you, for reading.

About Tallulah Howarth

Tallulah Howarth is a 22-year-old poet and multidisciplinary creative based in Leeds, currently studying an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University. She has forayed into noisemaking with the riot grrrl EP about foraging, ‘Dog Vomit Slime Mould’, and experiments with looping spoken word soundscapes. They have previously had publications in Young Identity’s ‘Ecosystems of Fury’, HEBE Poetry Magazine and Now Then Magazine. In 2019, they were shortlisted in the top five for the BBC Young Writers’ Award. Their work is observational, intimate and politically-motivated. They are particularly passionate about fungi, archives and Polish jazz.

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