Poetry in the Art Museum: In So Many Words

Interactive Poetry Display board at the museumFor the past nine weeks I’ve enjoyed seeing my PhD theories come to life, in the form of an interactive poetry display at National Museum Wales. The response has been phenomenal, beyond anything I could have imagined, and it’s been a real privilege to see so many people interacting with the display in different ways.   

Poems were displayed on white plinths beneath the artwork

Poems were displayed on white plinths (3 poems in English and 3 poems in Welsh for each work of art)

I’m grateful to the museum for allowing me to add this interactive display to their 18th century historic art gallery – a beautiful space which includes some impressive paintings by Richard Wilson, William Hogarth and others. And I’m also really grateful for those fifteen people who took part in the creative writing workshops back in July, whose poems featured as part of the initial display. (You can still listen to some of their poems on the museum’s website).

It was wonderful to see the Welsh and English poems displayed side by side beneath the artwork, and to then see museum visitors reading them and talking about them. Lots of visitors had a go at writing their own poem in response, and adding their poems to the display board, to the point where it was literally overflowing.

And people didn’t just write about the art. There were some really interesting poems on all sorts of subjects, reflections on life and love, favourite quotes, uplifting messages and loads of other fascinating contributions.

Museum visitors were invited to contribute their own creative response to the display

Museum visitors were invited to contribute their own creative response to the display

The magnetic poetry words were probably the most popular part of the display, and it was great to see families playing with words together, and then to see parents transcribing their children’s poems from the magnets onto the postcards. We used up all 1500 postcards during the nine weeks, and had to print more!

Magnetic word - EnglishIt was also fantastic to see so many languages represented. I’ve seen responses in Korean, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Chinese, Greek, Spanish, French, Japanese, Urdu, Arabic and Thai, as well as English and Welsh!

I’m now going to spend the next few months analysing the poems and visitor feedback, and writing my own poems in response…

For those interested in the theory behind this research, you might like to read this short section from a recent journal article on Ekphrastic Inquiry. It forms part of a wider collaborative article about the application of creative practice as a means of disrupting or re-defining the dynamics of power in, with or for different communities

You can also see more photos of the display on Instagram, or on my Facebook page

And if you’re an Instagrammer, and want to have a go yourself, you can still take part in the Instagram version of this project from last year…

Thanks to the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership for funding my PhD, and for providing additional funding for this project.

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