Krystina Stobinski wrote a poem about a piece called “Smart Bomb” on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. “Poems, Stories and Artifacts” features items from the City Museum’s permanent collection displayed alongside written word pieces by University of Alaska Southeast Creative Writing students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Krystina Stobinski wrote a poem about a piece called “Smart Bomb” on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. “Poems, Stories and Artifacts” features items from the City Museum’s permanent collection displayed alongside written word pieces by University of Alaska Southeast Creative Writing students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Odd museum collection has rhyme and reason

University of Alaska Southeast students wrote poems based on museum’s items

A bomb adorned with building blocks, an extra-long spoon and a jar of jelly beans might not have a lot in common on the surface, but they’re all part of the same exhibition at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

All those items are included in “Poems, Stories and Artifacts,” a collection of ekphrastic poems — descriptive poems focused on a scene or artwork — by students of University of Alaska Southeast associate professor and poet Emily Wall.

“Put all together, they show the incredible range of memories and objects that connect,” Wall said in an interview at the exhibition’s opening last Friday.

The eclectic collection of items came from the museum’s collection, and Wall said students were tasked with choosing an item that spoke to them to write about. Poems and the items that inspired them will be on display through March 29.

Wall said the goal of the project was to prompt unexpected connections and practice the ekphrastic style.

Krystina Stobinksi, a UAS student, wrote her poem about “Smart Bomb,” a work of art by Paul Gardinier that depicts and old bomb with children’s ABC blocks fastened to it. She said she connected to the bomb as a mechanical object rather than a weapon.

Krystina Stobinski wrote a poem about a piece called “Smart Bomb” on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. “Poems, Stories and Artifacts” features items from the City Museum’s permanent collection displayed alongside written word pieces by University of Alaska Southeast Creative Writing students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Krystina Stobinski wrote a poem about a piece called “Smart Bomb” on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. “Poems, Stories and Artifacts” features items from the City Museum’s permanent collection displayed alongside written word pieces by University of Alaska Southeast Creative Writing students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I really like to build things” Stobinski said.

[Making tracks to the city museum]

Her poem’s rhyme scheme also matches the A, B, C and A blocks on the bomb. That means the first and last lines of each stanza match while the middle lines do not.

“All it takes is a push,

to start an unneccessary feud.

Years of enduring relentless prods

just waiting for your push.

Meld together metals to cook

a recipe for national commotion

Ignore local cries sparing no rod.

We are waiting for your push…”

Other students connected to items through esoteric personal experiences.

Mindy Blackman, a UAS student, wrote about a spoon that was fastened to a long handle.

“It’s kind of cool and basic at the same time,” Blackman said.

While the item was used to clean out old mining furnaces, Blackman said it reminded her of a novelty item her grandfather would use for mischief, which inspired her poem, “Birthday Spoon.”

Blackman said her grandfather had a fork with an extendable handle — think fork prongs attached to an old radio antenna — that he received for his birthday.

“He’d always steal people’s food with it,” Blackman said. “I almost looked at it as his trident.”

[Pop up poet proves popular]

Other students leaned into the oddness of some items in the collection and chose them specifically because the objects seem out of place.

Annie Kessler, a UAS student, picked a colorful jar of jelly beans.

“It seemed like such an odd thing to find in a museum archive,” Kessler said.

Michelle Manning, a UAS student, chose a costume hair braid as her poem’s inspiration.

“It’s just really weird,” Manning said. “I think it was part of a traveling show group.”

Students, including Manning, said they enjoyed the project and ekphrastic poetry in general.

“It’s a really cool genre,” Manning said. “It’s a really cool creative form.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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