An exhibition of poems is a strange thing. Poems are to be heard, or read, surely?

There are more poems in this exhibition than you can count. But what counts as a poem?

I’ve been thinking about this question for at least a year, and perhaps a lifetime.

Once poetry is let off the page, it might go wild. It changes. It can hide, become feral, break apart, breed in ways you don’t expect. Instead of being what I make it, it becomes what you make of it. If I give you a handful of words, you drop them to the floor and pick up only those that shine, those not covered in dust, where did that poem come from? Who made it? Does it matter?

What you find will be what you look for. What they give will depend what you bring.

That’s how this exhibition is set up. In collaboration with nearly 100 other people, we’ve set up various experiences with what might count as poetry, to see what you think and what you get out of it.

There are some who would say that only good writers should write, only the best poetry should appear, only the highest works are worth looking up to. I’ve some sympathy with this. I want to write the best work I can write. I want people to appreciate it for the subtleties, intelligence, insight, art, originality I might find.

But the best poetry is not the only poetry. Language belongs to everyone, and it’s for everyone to explore. Reading is a creative act, too. “Exploding Poetry” is about the poetic experience, about the way readers and listeners strive to make sense and get pleasure. There are probably some meanings there, too, but that’s for you to decide.

If you find poems here, if you hear a refrain from room to room, or find two phrases that chime, or make sense out of the fragments you happen to encounter, or fill the white space with your own versions of what others might have written, then these will be the poems you’ve put here.

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