Ekphrastic Poetry: The Montana Museum Project

Program Description

Each year, the Academy of American Poets awards a number of fellowships to honor poets of literary merit appointed to serve in civic positions and to enable them to undertake meaningful, impactful, and innovative projects that engage their fellow residents with poetry. In 2021, Montana Poets Laureate M.L. Smoker and Melissa Kwasny were recipients of this award for a project that involved visiting many of our excellent Montana museums, viewing their collections and writing poems in response to a selected artwork or historical object, a form of poetry called “ekphrastic.”

In this presentation/workshop, Melissa will share slides of artworks and historical objects from these museums, along with examples of poems in response to them, and discuss the long tradition of and strategies for writing ekphrastic poetry. Participants will also be given a chance to select an image and write their own ekphrastic poems. Along the way, we will all learn more about the history, the collections, and the importance of our many small Montana museums. (Melissa is also interested in coordinating with museums in your communities to hold the presentations on site.)

Presenter Bio

Melissa Kwasny is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Where Outside the Body is the Soul Today and Pictograph, and a collection of essays on the poetic image, Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. Along with M.L. Smoker, she edited an anthology of poems in defense of global human rights, entitled I Go to the Ruined Place, as well as Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry. Kwasny has taught poetry writing in graduate and undergraduate programs and in the public schools for over thirty years.


Melissa Kwasny
Montana Poet Laureate

Melissa Kwasny
(406) 475-0892