Housed in a small, reimagined machine shop in Locust Grove is a museum unlike any other in the region.
MLS graduate Shaun Perkins recently opened the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry (ROMP). Unlike most traditional museums, ROMP invites visitors to interact with and personalize the written word. From a vending machine that dispenses handwritten, one of a kind poetry to add-a-line poems on a chalkboard wall, the displays ask you to think creatively and to take your place in the poetry populace.
“It is in the traditional sense of the word ‘museum,’” Perkins explained. “[It’s] a place that is sacred to the muses, the muses of poetry in particular. ROMP celebrates the power of poetry in the daily lives of the people. ROMP celebrates the first literary art in the world and its continuing need in the lives of people everywhere.”
An Inspiring Dream
Poetry has always had a unique hold on Perkins. “I don’t remember when I wasn’t writing or reading it. I had an early fascination with words and objects, and the two continually saw realization in poetry.”
Her inspiration for the museum came from a most unlikely place – a dream.
“[I dreamed that] I had started a poetry museum in my grandparents’ old house and it was full of poetry machines. In the dream, the museum was a cross between a museum I love—the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Mo.—and a Route 66 roadside attraction. I have always been interested in the poetry that crops up when we’re not trying to be poetic.”
“There is something powerful about reimagining an object, any concrete subject, to make a new experience for yourself and the reader. Poetry is quick and efficient. It’s a snap-of-the-fingers reality.”
A Place to Create
When visitors enter ROMP they can’t help but smile. It’s a small space with a tall ceiling but is without a hint of pretension. Poetry on each wall invites you in and begs you to explore, read and perhaps even add a few words of your own.
“There is something powerful about reimagining an object, any concrete subject, to make a new experience for yourself and the reader. Poetry is quick and efficient. It’s a snap-of-the-fingers reality. Right here–look at these words–notice how they are put together.”
The museum boasts interactive poetry for all ages. Poetry block activities and chairs decorated with animals and words appeal to younger visitors, while treasure hunts and poker poetry appeal to those a little older. The visitors compose their own poetry as they progress through the activities.
“The unique phrasing that comes out and the careful recitation that people make when they do this are both testaments to the power of poetic words in our lives.”
The museum hosts regular events at specific hours but is otherwise open upon request. Because Perkins lives nearby, travelers are welcome to call ahead and visit on their own time. Often, people ask to stop by while driving through rural Oklahoma.
“Sure, I say, just let me corral the dust bunnies and turn on the lights.”
Shaun Perkins is a storyteller, poet, teacher, and workshop facilitator who conducts workshops and presentations at the regional and national levels. She works with such organizations as the National Storytelling Network, National Association for Poetry Therapy, National Council for Teachers of English, as well as others. She has taught creative writing classes for high schools and colleges, in addition to writing online and with various writing communities. Currently, Perkins works as the webmaster and liaison for the Territory Tellers, Oklahoma’s only statewide storytelling organization.
She can be contacted by phone at (918) 864-9152 or by email at email@example.com.