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Celebrating National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day (7 October 2021), we invited poets to write a piece inspired by our incredible objects in the Science Museum Group Collection.

Ahead of National Poetry Day, we encouraged poets to engage in ‘slow looking’ by carefully considering and reimagining an object in our collection, to provide a different angle and bring a new perspective. We received numerous fantastic submissions and you can read our favourites below.

These poems range from a pot waiting in anxious anticipation to be used, to a quartz pebble from a sacred well (used to relieve pain). We have ponderings on Saturn’s influence on Earth, a nod to our modern-day artificial satellite atmospheric rings, as well as musings on love and condoms, and the subtleties of protest and healing. Each poem has a link through to the object that inspired it, so you can find out more about our wonderful collection.

If you feel inspired to write your own poem about an object, we’d love to read it! Why not explore our collection using our Random Object Generator to get your creative juices flowing, and send your poem to poetry@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

Happy National Poetry Day all!


Bell shaped bronze mortar jar, by Diane Woodrow

Inspired by: Bell shaped bronze mortar, English (?), 1500 to 1700

I waited on the shelf, hands on hips, wondering what the plan would be.
I listened from the shelf, hands on hips, hearing the plan discussed
I watched from the shelf, hands on hips, observing the plan unfold.
I was pulled from the shelf, hands on hips, as the plan developed.
I was placed on the bench, hands on hips, becoming part of the plan.
I stood firm on the bench, hands on hips, as the plan reached fruition.

Copyright © Diane Woodrow, 2021

 

She Whom the Moon Ruled, after Adrienne Rich, by Alicia Sometimes

Inspired by: Caroline Herschel’s telescope, 1795-1816

Caroline Herschel—

the ebb of calculations & deductions. all night star seducing

exhausting tea making & sidereal astronomy

collapsing horse manure

into glue to hold

the heavens straight

a soprano waiting for the nod

to gather life’s dust for hobby. to sweep some nebulae her way

 

she rules in notebooks for precision. wants to find a Lady’s comet

& notices changing clusters & twin lights circling each other

nestling swans. she is the galaxy. she is a magnet.

she is

home. William has just discovered Uranus

her pride expands to the swelling moments

of the Big Bang. her eyes

dizzy at times while her fingers crack pencils

she feels her brother did all the

 

(I am a mere tool…I know how dangerous it is for women
to draw too much notice on themselves.)

 

sharpening.

 

after William, she catalogues another 2500 positions

Nothing—not sleep or meals take her away

from this proven love. for 97 years

she emitted curiosity

for all years after, she delivers

a slice of the unknown

Copyright © Alicia Sometimes, 2021

 

SATURNIAN, by A C Bevan

Inspired by: Telstar 1 communications satellite, 1962 (replica)

Earth too has atmospheric rings of particles but ours
are manmade out of aerospace technology, of Smart
Global Positioning hardware, diminutive spacecraft,
Comsats like artificial moons, & a zodiac of Telstars.
So, you can watch your free-to-air TV, or geoparse
your personal coordinates as you navigate your car
round the loop roads & orbitals at 2 chevrons apart,
while listening to the traffic news on a radio quasar
for flyovers of rocketry, shuttles scrapped for parts
& micro-meteoritic flecks & fragments still at large,
all circum-aviating through their designated paths
at ultra-high velocities of hyper miles per hour, as
you turn off the bypass in a parallax of arc having
reached your destination on a satellite retail park.

Copyright © A C Bevan, 2021

 

Packaging Passion, by Dorothy Burrows

Inspired by: Condom packaging, single packet, “Phantasma”, 1930-1940

Ponder this pretty packet for a prophylactic
Holding protection from parenthood for all
Adults who choose and can afford to use it.
Note that its name means shadow, spectre:
Take care to hide this carton in a drawer!
A stylised image of a submissive goddess
Suggests, maybe, that sexual intercourse is
More about power than a shared passion:
An illustration of how not to package love?

Copyright © Dorothy Burrows, 2021

 

I’ve been to Sellafield, by Tracey Fuller

Inspired by: Anti-nuclear energy badge in Welsh. Text: ‘Ynni Niwcliar? Dim Diolch’

They were all Rainbow Warriors.
They all had badges:
CND, Amnesty, Rock Against Racism,
Greenham Common.

I watched from the sofa, the women on TV,
Arms linked; daisy-chained
Around the perimeter.
Singing, picnicking, laughing,
Holding hands in the mud.
I wanted some of that.

My Forces upbringing
Scoffed and sneered.
What did women know about defence?
Mothers who had left their kids at home,
What did they defend,
Other than their children’s future.

My friends wore their badges on their sleeves.
I wore my heart muffled up.
Pins on lapels,
Cloth-patched slogans on rucksacks slung over tie-died jackets.
They wore discs of Anti – Nuclear sunshine,
In exotic languages like Welsh.

Permed hair,
dungaree wearing,
right-on supporters of protest.
They joined Embrace the Base
And returned jubilant and Cold
War worn

I had a badge too,
From a 4th year trip to Sellafield.
We learnt about chain reactions,
While they wrote chain letters and linked arms against fusion.
Chained themselves to fences,
Danced on missile silos.

Sellafield had a free visitor centre,
a pile of Yellowcake,
a sculpture of an atom,
a ‘Can you Control the Reactor’
Nuclear disaster game.
A café with a good quiche.

I wore my badge with pride,
On the inside of my coat,
Just inside the pocket where its warm
And the lining meets my core.

Copyright © Tracey Fuller, 2021

 

Syrupus, by Sarah Davies

Inspired by: Glass shop round, inscribed “SYRUPUS”, British, 2nd half of 19th century

Dark blue warm glass bottle
Containing what delights?

The word is rich, enticing
Promising a warm golden glow.

Sticky, heavy, delightful,
Where will it take me?
Just the look of the bottle makes me feel better.

The sweet, sticky liquid coats my throat,
Floats through my body bringing relief.

The Syrupus envelops and heals me.

Copyright © Sarah Davies, 2021

 

Ex Voto, by Heather H Yeung

Inspired by: Quartz pebble from well sacred to St. Kieran, taken from the water and rubbed on the body to relieve pain, Ballaghmore, Leix, Irish, found 1930-31

Eiréil

dull thud
of stone on heart
of heart on stone
and around stone
water, reflected
clouds, the floating leaves

inside the stone
carillon of wildflowers

Read the full poem here.

Copyright © Heather H Yeung, 2021

Feeling inspired to write your own? Explore our Random Object Generator and send your poem to poetry@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.