The Poetry Box

The Poetry Box 2003 is a text and image artwork presented as a game investigating the relationship between words and images and exploring the conventions of portraiture. It grew from an invitation for Eileen to participate in an exhibition, Acts of Renewal, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2002 where a number of artists were invited to respond to an artefact in the museum’s Japanese collection. Eileen chose a 19th-century poetry card game, uta karuta, whose origins combine a traditional clamshell-matching game with European playing cards. Uta karuta relies on the players having knowledge of the hyakunin ishu, an anthology of 31-syllable poems by different poets. As there is no comparable, universally-known canon of poetry in Britain, Eileen mirrored the mix of structure and randomness in the game itself by inviting one hundred people to nominate a poem for inclusion. They were a cross-section of age, occupation and background and their choices provided a small-scale survey of who has been reading what and why at the beginning of the 21st century. The game comprises the first and last lines of poems on cards that have related images, including portraits of the poets on the verso. The aim is to match the first and last lines. (17.5cms x 13cms x 10cms) Edition of 50. Clear Perspex box with two drawers containing a booklet.