Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? To celebrate, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s office is hosting Poem In Your Pocket Day and we are taking part. If you show up this Thursday, April 14th with a poem in your pocket, you’ll get free admission to the museum.
Speaking of poetry, a couple of months ago I started to notice poems began appearing in our collection online. Now we’ve seen a lot of benefits to allowing comments in our collection—everything from causal comments and questions to helpful data correction of our records, but the poetry that begain appearing was a whole new use of the collection online and a nice surprise.
The great thing about enabling visitors to sign up for public profiles, means we all get to virtually meet the contributors. In this case, I quickly learned that Raj Arumugam was the writer behind these works and from his profile, I learned a bit about him: “A poet and writer. I write poems after some contemplation of selected images in the public domain and I post them online for the public to read and to view free.” He’s also a published author and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to publish a Q&A with him given it’s National Poetry Month.
How did you come across our collection online?
I am excited by how the internet can bring on to our screens almost any aspect of our world inheritance of culture. Before the internet, I used to have to rely on public libraries for information on artists – but now, all one has to do is to google and one has in view the works of almost any major artist or art.
I like to link art and my poetry, and searching for some Japanese art the google results produced the name of Brooklyn Museum – and I was immediately attracted to how you present your collection of the 100 One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The site allows ease of navigation between notes and the images.
After that, I’ve been hooked to your site especially because it has such an international and universal approach.
Your profile bio mentions that you select images in the public domain and post poems online for the public to read and view and for free. What motivates you and what other sites have you found for inspiration?
Well, I love poetry. And I love to write. And I love to write at sites that make it easy for me write a poem and post an accompanying picture. I think with the coming of the internet, poets and artists have to bring in the arts together and I love bringing our world art and my poetry together. For example, I might take a work by Rembrandt (for example, his Rembrandt laughing) and actually ‘meditate’ on the work till the words come to me and then all I have to do is to post it at a site like say, sulekha.com.
I am now doing a similar thing at the Brooklyn Museum site.
Another art site that I have found brilliant is China the Beautiful which carries truly beautiful paintings.
Do you have a process for selecting the images in our collection? Are you drawn to specific collections or works?
I don’t really have a process, but I’m currently in love with Asian art, particularly Chinese, Korean and Japanese art. So I usually go to your collection of Asian art first when at your site.
Asian Art has a different view of our relationship with nature and of our place in this world. Western art portrays a sense of our need to dominate over nature whereas Asian nature offers a deep contemplation of nature as it is, as in “Hibiscus and Sparrow” by Katsushika Hokusai.
There’s a long history of association between poetry and visual art – where do you see your work fitting into this?
With the internet, poetry and art should move into enriching this relationship. The internet and cyberspace indeed offers tremendous opportunity to the poet now – one can do static combinations as in having a poem and art from a master posted as a blog. That’s what I’m doing currently. I hope to move into other possibilities of this arts-poetry-music combination in cyberspace – short videos/films, audio recordings, etc…
Poetry and art are a form meditation (they are of course many other things too) and I find this bringing together my way of meditation.
This bringing together, for me, is what brings calm, insight and stillness.
Raj has created 43 poems to date and you can read them all on the comments tab of his Posse profile.
Shelley Bernstein is the former Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. In the most recent example—ASK Brooklyn Museum—visitors ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process.
Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy has been featured in the New York Times.
In 2016, Shelley joined the staff at the Barnes Foundation as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer.