Entertainment & Arts

Cambridge University collections to inspire UK poets

Carol Ann Duffy
Image caption Carol Ann Duffy invited 10 leading poets to take part

Ten of the UK's top poets have been commissioned to write works inspired by unique museum exhibits.

The poets have been matched to collections at Cambridge University, which include objects such as Captain Scott's farewell letter to his wife and Charles Darwin's zoological specimens.

The project, known as Thresholds, includes the poets Daljit Nagra, Don Paterson and Jo Shapcott.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy described it as "an unprecedented initiative".

Each poet will spend two weeks in residence between January and March meeting researchers and exploring the collections. They will then write a poem inspired by the experience.

"This is a stunning level of commitment to poetry and poets," Duffy said. "These 10 residencies will create a unique collaboration of poets, creating a meeting of minds and disciplines and providing a catalyst for ideas."

She added: "These 10 poets represent the best of poetry being written at the moment. I wanted to include up-and-coming poets and older poets, as well as representing different cultures and countries, too.

"All of them were the first 10 names on my list and I'm delighted to say all said yes immediately with no persuasion.

"A poetry project of this size and scale, across so many different, remarkable and beautiful institutions is unheard of. This really is an unprecedented initiative."

As well as the Captain Scott letter, held at the Polar Museum, and Darwin's animal specimens at the Museum of Zoology, other items include Isaac Newton's own copy of Principia Mathematica, at Cambridge University Library.

Thresholds - supported by Arts Council England - will be launched by Duffy on Friday night at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, as part of the University's Festival of Ideas.

The poets and their places of residency are: Sean Borodale - Museum of Classical Archaeology; Gillian Clarke - Museum of Zoology; Imtiaz Dharker - Cambridge University Library; Ann Gray - Cambridge University Botanic Garden; Matthew Hollis - The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences; Jackie Kay - Kettle's Yard; Daljit Nagra - Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; Don Paterson - Whipple Museum of the History of Science; Jo Shapcott - The Polar Museum; Owen Sheers - The Fitzwilliam Museum.

An anthology of the new poems will be published in March 2013.

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