The Pryor Times


September 17, 2013

Muses visit Locust Grove barn

A little red barn at the top of a hill in Locust Grove houses the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry. The barn is tucked back in a wooded area, at the end of a winding dirt road.

The Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry, or ROMP, is an interactive museum meant to inspire creativity.

“This isn't a traditional stop, stand, stare museum,” said curator Shaun Perkins, a storyteller, poet, teacher and workshop facilitator.

Perkins converted the barn that has been in her family for years into ROMP.

“I know, it's an unusual concept, a poetry museum,” said Perkins. “But when you see it, it just makes sense.”

Perkins said the idea came to her in a dream in which she had a poetry museum full of poetry machines.

“I'm still working on the machine part, but the museum is coming along nicely,” said Perkins.

The museum is home to an old vending machine that, when finished, will dispense lines of poetry as well as a gumball museum that gives out “poetic fortunes.”

Wooden blocks with lines of poetry and poetry magnetics are available for a more hands on approach to constructing a poem. Under the window is a poker table where groups are encouraged to play poetry poker.

“Do you ever pick up an old book in a thrift store or yard sale and find someone's notes written inside it? I can't resist them. In this exhibit you will see the marginalia from an old literature textbook,” said Perkins of the exhibit aptly named Marginalia.

In the corner of the one room barn are two more out-of-the-box exhibits, “Cats” and “C-List.”

In the “Cats” exhibit, museum visitors are encouraged to write metaphors inspired by their feline friends while “C-List” is about creating poetry from outlandish Craigslist ads.

“This back wall is a little old school,” said Perkins of another exhibit, “Listen.”

“Poetry is meant to be heard, so this booth is full of blank cassette tapes and a recorder so people can record original poetry or read something aloud from a book of poetry,” said Perkins.

The writing is literally on the wall as museum guests are encouraged to write their creations on the walls of the room for all to see.

Some exhibits have no instructions and visiting poets are encouraged to simply go where their muse leads them.

The imagination begins outside, before a visitor even sets foot in the  barn.

There are  brightly colored steps leading up the side of a tree, an invitation to adventure that most kids can't resist, said Perkins.

“The treehouse is a designated children's area. There has been a treehouse in that area since 1933,” she said.

The garden is a mish-mash of items that all seem to belong. A framed and faded poem called “Sympathy” leans against a tub of pansies and across the garden a bird bath is toppled over spilling out shells and poems in glass bottles.

Perkins said she has always loved poetry and believes passion can be found anywhere. Perkins is part of the National Storytelling Network, National Association for Poetry Therapy, National Council for Teachers of English and has taught various creative writing classes. She speaks at conferences, writing poetry on demand.

“I take my old typewriter on stage and people give me three words. They set the timer for one minute and I write them a poem using their three words,” said Perkins. “I also sat up and did that at Locust Grove's last Founder's Day.”

Despite her participation in Founder's Day, Perkins said she has not received much feedback or interaction from the community.

“A lot of people think about poetry and think ‘what's in it for me?’” said Perkins. “But poetry is for everyone.”

Perkins said poetry has more power over people than they realize.

“I think it's really true that we all have a poet in us that died in our youth. Poetry is a way of allowing creativity to stay alive as adults,” said Perkins. “Something about the way it is written and the way we change our mindset when we read it, it's enriching.”

She said you don't have to consider yourself a poet to enjoy the experience.

“It's not always about creating words. It's about arranging other people's words in another way, reinventing them,” said Perkins. “All that makes poetry good is that it is an honest, true observation of a human experience.”


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