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Art & Words: Writing Poetry in Response to Works of Art

Rachel Carney, 22 July 2021

Have you ever walked past a painting because it seemed boring? What if you paused, spent time writing and let the words take you on an unexpected journey?

My research examines what happens when we write poetry in response to works of art. It doesn’t have to be ‘good’ poetry, or ‘rhyming’ poetry. It doesn’t even have to look like poetry. It is simply about slowing down and letting a different part of your brain take over – the part of your brain that ponders in ways you may not be aware of, translating impressions into words.

Over the last few months I’ve been running creative writing workshops with a group of people from Rhondda Cynon Taff. Each week we have spent time looking at one or two images from the museum’s collection, and writing poems in response. These poems will be posted on Instagram over the next few months.

And I’d like to invite everyone to take part in the next phase of this project. You don’t need to be a writer. It doesn’t even matter if you hate poetry! We want as many people as possible to respond to the images and poems by writing a poem of their own. You don’t need to make it rhyme, or to worry about spelling and punctuation. Every creative response will be different, and each one will give us a new perspective on the work of art.

For each post there will be a few prompts to get you started. For example, you might imagine that you are in the painting, and begin by writing a simple list of things that you can hear, smell, taste, touch or see. You could pick out one or two items from your list, and use them as a prompt to begin writing something longer. Free-writes are especially useful. Begin with a theme, or a question, or a word, and force yourself to write without stopping for three or four minutes (time yourself using a stopwatch on your phone). This kind of writing can take you in some really interesting and unexpected directions.

The aim of this project is to encourage as many people as possible to take part, responding with their own creative thoughts and impressions. As more and more poems are written and shared, the project will become more and more interesting. Each response will give us a new interpretation of the artwork, a new way of seeing and understanding.

So please do have a go at writing something in response to these incredible works of art, and let us know how you get on. To take part, just visit the museum's Instagram page, where you can see the images, poems and prompts. You can either add your own poem as a comment to each Instagram post or post the poem on your own account, tagging the museum. If you don't use Instagram, feel free to add your poem on this page, using the comments below.

Rachel Carney is a poet, creative writing tutor and PhD student, based at Cardiff University with co-supervision from Aberystwyth University, funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and an MA in Museum Studies from Newcastle University, and has worked in the museum sector for several years. Her poems, articles and reviews have been published in numerous magazines and journals, and two of her poems have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Find out more about her research here:

Comments (2)

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Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
13 October 2021, 15:20

Hi Gemma! To take part, just visit the Museum's Instagram page, where you can see the images, poems and prompts. You can either add your own poem as a comment to each Instagram post, or post the poem on your own account, tagging the Museum.

Gemma Jayne Paine
9 September 2021, 09:26
Hi Writing poetry in response to an art work.
I believe the response is to Gwen John however
how can you a poem be submitted to this project
Gemma Jayne Paine