Bringing contemporary art and poetry into dialogue, This is a poem is a multi-art project encompassing an exhibition, new commissions in a diverse mix of media and forms, live performances and a publication.  It opens at Buxton Contemporary at the University of Melbourne on Friday 9 July 2021 until 14 November 2021.

Conceived to creatively animate the Buxton Contemporary collection, This is a poem brings art, artists and poetry into orbit with audiences through an experimental and experiential exhibition that explores the longstanding tradition of ekphrastic poetry, or poetry that is conceived in response to art.

The project draws notable artists and poets into creative discourse. Each participant has been invited to write, perform, read or present in visual form, an original work of poetry in response to an artwork held in the Buxton Contemporary collection. It aims to provide an open-ended platform for a rich array of possible expressions of contemporary poetry to be authored and presented (including live in real time) in response to works of art.

The participating artists and poets:  Aleks Danko, artist; Alex Selenitsch, concrete poet; Bella Li, poet and artist; Brad Aaron Modlin, poet and writer; Everlyn Araluen, poet, descendant of the Bundjalung nation; Fayen d’Evie artist with Benjamin Hancock dancer; Jeanine Leane, Wiradjuri poet and writer; Justin Clemens, poet and writer; Kevin Brophy poet and writer; Lisa Gorton, poet and writer; Lisa Radford & Sam George, artists; Lou Hubbard, artist; Michelle Nikou, artist Mitch Cairns, artist; Newell Harry, artist; Rose Nolan, artist; Sandra Parker, dancer and choreographer; Simryn Gill, artist. 

Curated by Melissa Keys. 

‘This is poem is an exhibition concept that I have been thinking about for some years’, says Melissa Keys. ‘It is essentially an experiment with uncertain and exciting possibilities. Once the poets and artists were selected, the project took on a life of its own. Each participating poet brought their own unique insight, craft, intelligence, and imagination to bear on an artwork, or suite of artworks from the University’s Michael Buxton Collection, that registered or resonated with them. The collection work and the poetic response each stand-alone, and yet form an exchange that between artwork and poem, combines to accrue new layers of association, meaning, and expressiveness’.

This is a poem comprises 19 ambitious new projects by poets and artists that respond to 26 existing works of art represented in the museum’s nationally significant contemporary collection. The responses are variously poignant, heart-rending, playful, humorous, critical and absurd, and span a broad range of topical themes from the impact of colonisation, human mortality, the nature of compassion through to the very act of breathing itself.

The exhibition unfolds across all four galleries providing an expansive exploration of poetry in multiple, often surprising forms including concrete and visual poetry, spoken and written word, dance, movement-based expression and sound, colour poetry, found poetry and poem as physical form and assemblage.

While poetry often appears in artworks, features in exhibitions and within broader museum programming, a presentation of this scale and depth is significant and promises to make a meaningful contribution to an expanded expression and definition of Ekphrasis – the imaginative and magical correspondence between poetry and art.

This is a Poem opens on 9 July until 14 November 2021 at Buxton Contemporary, the University of Melbourne Cnr Dodds St & Southbank Blvd, Southbank.  Entry Free.  

Wed – Sun 11am – 5pm.   Visit

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