This is a poem | Mitch Cairns, 2021 | Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne | curated by Melissa Keys

Bringing contemporary art and poetry into dialogue, This is a poem was a multi-disciplinary project encompassing new commissions in a diverse mix of media and forms, live performances, a publication and an exhibition.


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 University’s Buxton Contemporary collection. Conceived to creatively animate the collection, This is a poem brings art, artists, and poetry into orbit with audiences through an experimental and experiential exhibition that explored the longstanding tradition of ekphrastic poetry.


An ekphrastic poem can be defined as a vivid description or response to a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating or reflecting on an artwork, a poet may amplify and expand its meaning. The rich array of poetry created in response to this invitation is variously poignant, heart-rending, playful, humorous, critical and absurd. It spans a broad range of topical themes, from the impact of colonisation, human mortality and the nature of compassion through to the very act of breathing itself.


This is a poem offers an expansive sample of poetry in multiple and often surprising forms, including concrete and visual poetry, spoken and written word, dance, movement-based expression, sound, colour poetry, found poetry and poetry as physical form and assemblage. While poetry often appears in other modes of art and is incorporated into exhibitions and within broader museum programming, a presentation of this scale and depth is uncommon.


This is a poem seeks to make a meaningful contribution to an expanded expression and definition of ekphrasis – the imaginative and magical correspondence between poetry and art.



visit the exhbition website