Thingly Power: (In)Animate Studio

Thingly Power: (In)Animate Studio

Discover your sensuous side and write poems exploring the radiant materiality of curious objects

Are crystals:
They take the life lived,
Narrow it, diffract it, project
Its pattern on the mind’s photographic plates, atoms
Integrated, othered, as forms
Thrown beyond the shapes… 

 – Steven Matthews, from ‘Fibonacci Crystals’ in Guests of Time (Valley Press, Scarborough) 

How can we engage with the material world in a way that enriches our writing and our being? We could dismiss contemporary ‘materialism’ as disposable, surface level – but our relationships to the ‘inanimate’ can be significant. ‘Possessions remain profound,’ says Daniel Miller, an anthropologist who explored a whole street’s attachment to things: ‘usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer our relationships are with people’. But how to keep those relationships healthy?  

This course will initially invite you out into your local museum and gallery spaces to experience objects there through poetry writing tasks. These spaces highlight the Thingness of ‘special stuff’ – while often denying full sensuous (smelling, tasting, feeling) engagement with it, behind glass or red ropes. Over three assignments, you’ll be challenged to re-evaluate your relationship to ‘special’, everyday, and especially-everyday objects through your writing; to extend that museum-like wonder and curiosity to what Jane Bennett calls, ‘the material agency of natural bodies and technological artifacts’.  

What if we rethink material objects as having real agency in our lives, their forms as having inherent potential? We’ll look at poems that take objects as their ‘way in’ – from museum anthologies, to Neruda’s ‘Odes to Everyday Objects’, to poems highlighting thingly power in technology & ecology – using close sensory attention to develop & expand our writing to the worlds around us. While some things ‘belong’ in a museum, or ‘deserve’ a poem – how do we make other matter… matter? 


Studios are 4-week intensive courses. Reading material will be distributed before the course begins. There are no live chats so they are suitable for both UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected] 

Image credit: ‘Thorvaldsens Museum’

About Caleb Parkin View Profile

Caleb Parkin, Bristol City Poet 2020 – 22, has published widely in journals including The Rialto, Poetry Review, Magma, Poetry Wales, Butcher’s Dog and The Guardian, and has won or been shortlisted in major competitions. He tutors for The Poetry Society, Poetry School, Cheltenham Festivals, and First Story, and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP). 

His pamphlet, Wasted Rainbow, was published by tall-lighthouse in February 2021 and his debut collection, This Fruiting Body, by Nine Arches in October, which was developed with Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice support. 

'Caleb was excellent. His feedback was full of positivity and great energy. It was good for the poets' confidence, I'm sure. He mentioned where I might publish some pieces and said a few words about how they could further develop into different projects. He was really generous with the feedback and the handled the course really well. It's a difficult task to make a group of people who don't know one-another feel able to share wacky experimental poetry, so I congratulate him on putting the right spirit into it, as well as the very well prepared course resources. Really enjoyed the course.'

— Spring 2021 survey response

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