Stephen Knight
Poet at The Museum of Me

Stephen Knight's most recent collections of poetry include Dream City Cinema (Bloodaxe, 1996) and The Sandfields Baudelaire (Smith/Doorstop, 1996). His first novel, Mr. Schnitzel, appeared from Penguin in 2000. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1987 and won the 1992 National Poetry Competition.

Background

The Museum Of consists of a series of temporary museums set up to question our relationship with collections, collecting and the role that museums play in our culture. The project involving poet Stephen Knight as part of 'The Museum of Me' incorporated workshops with local housing and business communities, various youth groups and schools who have a connection with The Museum Of, visitors to the museum, and staff.

A final report from Clare Patey, Artistic Director at The Museum Of stated: "The residency went really well, especially the Sunday sessions, where people just dropped in and had a go at writing, often for the first time in their lives. Word spread with many participants coming back the next week with friends and relatives. We also found a way to display the poetry in the museum to which visitors added their own work as they went round the exhibition."

 


Report

While the workshops programmed were enjoyable, my presence at the museum for three hours on successive Sunday afternoons was the highlight of the placement. Visitors to The Museum Of Me (the second of five exhibitions at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf) were provided with a tin and a perforated sheet of questions about their dreams, secrets and hopes. Their responses were either placed in the tin or added to the various displays. By the time they arrived at my room they were accustomed to the act of writing as an integral part of the museum experience and continued to write for me, less wary of poetry than they might otherwise have been.

Loneliness is a ginormous cinema

in a small Polish town

in autumn when it's raining

and you don't know

what to do, who to call.

- Dutch tourist

All ages took part, from small children to adults; often, parents would deliver children only to be encouraged to write alongside their sons and daughters.

An extra Sunday session was added to the end of the exhibition's run and the museum hopes to compile an anthology of poems as part of its archive.

Not only did my 15-minute workshops yield interesting poems, but, even more rewardingly, several participants wandered in unawares. One, surprised at what she had written, attended a workshop the following evening, and, after that 3-hour session, asked where to go from there. To watch someone in the space of a couple of days discover poetry then express a wish to take it further was very exciting and exactly what I imagined the scheme could do: present poetry in an unfamiliar context and reach people who might not have otherwise thought it was for them.

Young Poets Network