Oklahoma Contemporary's artistic director on what's ahead for National Poetry Month
A line of poetry can contain a universe. It can fit into tight spaces while pointing toward great distances. During a time of contraction and sheltering in place, poetry can help us open doors to new worlds. With each poem we read, we’re collaborating with the poet to imagine something, to view the world from different perspectives, to create new ways of seeing.
In honor of National Poetry Month, Oklahoma Contemporary is celebrating the art of poetry. We’ll be connecting our audiences to work by living poets, collaborating with Quraysh Ali Lansana to create a crowdsourced poem, providing insight into a poet’s creative process and sharing fun, poetry-inspired art activities. Be sure to follow us across our social platforms to get a glimpse at some of the ways contemporary poets are levering language as a medium to create meaning.
For today's #ThursdayThree installment, Oklahoma Contemporary Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis sat down to talk about what your arts center has in store to keep you creative during the "cruelest month."
Why is celebrating National Poetry Month important to Oklahoma Contemporary?
Poetry is something we have long been interested in — particularly in asking writers and poets to respond to visual art and objects we've exhibited over the last few years. We had plans to celebrate National Poetry Month before we had to delay our grand opening: Our first Second Saturday was going to be entirely devoted to poetry, and we have several works in Bright Golden Haze that are text-based, including a poem rendered in large-scale LED by Robert Montgomery. So it made sense to create a series of programs inspired by poetry. We've long collaborated with poetry organizations like Poetry and Chill and Short Order Poems. So this was a natural way for us to incorporate different media, allowing artists to collaborate and get inspired by one another's works.
Are there any plans in the works you're particularly excited about?
I'm excited about a lot of the different projects we have in the works from various departments. But I think I'm most excited to be working with Quraysh Ali Lansana. I've followed his work, which is very interesting to me personally, but I think he's had an outsized impact on his home state. He's been an educator for many years. He's been an ambassador for poetry and its value in creating meaning for people and helping us share our thoughts and our feelings. And through a variety of work he's doing with Tulsa Artist Fellowship and his new Public Radio Tulsa show (Focus: Black Oklahoma), he has a number of platforms that can help spread the word to different audiences about what we do, who we are and how we incorporate all art forms.
How is Oklahoma Contemporary planning to incorporate poetry into its programming after April?
We'll continue to collaborate with poets in ways similar to what we've done in the past, whether that's through spoken word or working with lyricists and emcees, through concerts or other types of public programming. We'll continue to partner with other groups, perhaps with OVAC and ArtFocus, on programs that could be connected to future exhibitions. Poetry might not be something we focus on week to week, but it's definitely an art form we want to explore, encourage and promote.
Image: Robert Montgomery. The Stars Pulled Down for Real, 2015. Commissioned by ALL RISE, Seattle, Wash. Photo by Max Cleary.
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