Scott Smiley's
Ideas in Place



Poetics of


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What is Poetics of Place?

Poetics of Place is a way of understanding (or seeking to understand) the undefinable, immeasurable qualities of the places we inhabit in everyday life. For example, although scientists can measure the light waves that make up the colors of the rainbow, this fails to address the rainbow as beautiful, romantic, or meaningful.

  • These qualities, which may be more easily expressed in a poem than with scientific observation, contribute to the rich textures and meanings of life.
  • In our rush to go about the busy-ness, however, we usually overlook the poetics of place and their affects on the mind, emotions, body, and spirit. This disregard for things like beauty and calm works to the detriment of our well-being.
  • I have gathered together different sources of wisdom that contribute to the understanding of how we experience space. These sources contributed to my doctoral dissertation on the poetics of place in public gardens, and I have now incorporated them into my consulting business. My consultations involve the analysis of places (both homes and businesses) in the interests of improving the way those places are experienced.


We are always in place

  • places are much more than function
  • places affect the mind, emotions, body, and spirit
  • they carry content that is not only functional, but also psychological, symbolic, perceptual, artistic, creative, imaginative, kinesthetic, aesthetic, emotional-just the sorts of things that are expressed in poetry.
  • these messy, inexact, indefinable qualities of place are hard to get at, and they are difficult or impossible to measure. These immeasurable qualities, which give life its rich textures and depth of meaning, are the poetics.
  • "poetics of place" refers both to the poetic qualities of places and to the process of understanding and enhancing these qualities.
  • I use a number of different bodies of thought, all of which deal with immeasurables, to work toward this poetic understanding:

Poetics of place is a way of understanding places and our experience of them as if they were poetry. We often look at places in terms of how they function: the dining room for eating in, the family room for watching TV, the office cubicle for working , the park for taking walks, etc. When we think about places this way, however, we are treating them as things or as objects. As objects, places are distant from us, and they may seem to have little affect on us. This attitude, however, shuts out another very important aspect of place.

We are immersed in places, always in one place or another, and therefore intimately caught up in the places around us.

© 2000 Scott P. Smiley

Coming Soon, pages on:

  • Creating a home that nourishes the spirit
  • Poetics
  • Phenomenology
  • Archetypes
  • Mythology and Folklore, applied
  • Environmental Psychology

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© 2001 Scott P. Smiley