9 July – 14 November 2021

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 drew notable artists and poets into creative discourse. Each participant was 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 brought 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 offered 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 was uncommon.
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This is a poem sought to make a meaningful contribution to an expanded expression and definition of ekphrasis – the imaginative and magical correspondence between poetry and art.

The participating artists and poets: Aleks Danko, artist; Alex Selenitsch, concrete poet; Bella Li, poet and artist; Brad Aaron Modlin, poet and writer; Evelyn 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 with Oscar Weimar filmmaker; 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.

Artists from the collection: Hany Armanious, Pat Brassington, Janet Burchill, Mutlu Çerkez, Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser, Emily Floyd, Rosalie Gascoigne, Mira Gojak, David Jolly, Tracey Moffatt, John Nixon, Raquel Ormella, Mike Parr, Stuart Ringholt, Sandra Selig & Leighton Craig, Peter Tyndall and Louise Weaver.
Curated by Melissa Keys.


Exhibition Catalogue

This is a poem is a multidisciplinary project that brings contemporary art and poetry into dialogue, encompassing new commissions in a diverse mix of media and forms, live performances, a publication and an exhibition.

Contributors include Justin Clemens, Melissa Keys and Jeanine Leane.



Download exhibition artwork labels to suit your viewing needs.
Image credit: Installation view, This is a poem, Buxton Contemporary, The University of Melbourne, 2021 with Mitch Cairns, Studies for This is a poem 2020 photography Christian Capurro