I appreciate poetry for how it conveys life through the perspective of the writer. A poetry museum exists in Oklahoma, where people can celebrate this literary art. Though not a traditional museum, the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry is every much a place where you can learn about and interact with the art on display. I reached out to Shaun Perkins, the curator of ROMP, to ask her about poetry.
Travis Blair: How would you define poetry?
Shaun Perkins: Poetry is a machine of human words. A good machine is efficient and useful. Nothing in it is superfluous. A machine is physical, and only human interaction with its physical, sensory spaces evokes any feelings or emotions. A machine is created for a purpose and is purposeful. All of these machine qualities are true of poetry.
Travis: I think part of the beauty of poetry, is that it can come from anywhere. What inspires you to write?
Shaun: Two things mainly inspire me–and they are not unique–love and nature. Love of my family and my man Ken and all things in the natural world. These are the two subjects that have driven poetry since the cave people sat around the fire. Of course, I see these two things in very specific ways. For instance, when I write about love, I might be writing about my son Luke breaking his skateboard or Ken writing me lists or my grandmother finding her dead husband’s dental plate in the kitchen junk drawer, and when I write about nature, I might be writing about lying in the meadow drinking hot beer or comparing a strutting peacock to a waiter in tophat and tails or the tableau of a mother possum dead on the road with a string of her dead babies at each teat.
Travis: What is your favorite style of poetry?
Shaun: I enjoy poems that immediately take me into a physical world that feels true to me. I enjoy poems that allow me to see something familiar in a new way. I don’t have a favorite style, as I like ancient as well as contemporary poems, rhymed as well as free verse.
Travis: Who are some of your favorite poets? They don’t necessarily have to be well known.
Shaun: A short list of my favorite poets in no particular order includes Joy Harjo, Anne Sexton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Butler Yeats, Woody Guthrie, Paul Zimmer, Emily Dickinson, William Stafford, May Swenson, Thomas Hardy, Pablo Neruda, William Shakespeare, Marge Piercy, David Baker, Robert Hayden, James Wright, Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Czeslaw Milosv, Billy Collins, and TR Hummer.
Travis: Has the ROMP been able to bring poetry to any who haven’t been interested before.
Shaun: ROMP has been open since September 2012 and has brought a wealth of diverse people into contact with words, wordplay, and poetry at our events. A recent public radio visit highlighted the fact that my 78-year-old dad wrote his first poem when the museum opened. Children of all ages regularly come to ROMP events. A couple that owns the local lumber yard in town came out and both wrote poems now in the museum. As a recent visitor to the museum said, The ROMP casually opens a new door to creativity that was closed prior to visiting the museum.
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