Press Release: New Field Museum Exhibit Featuring Poems for Popular Attractions Debuts During National Poetry Month

April 15, 2022 Exhibition
The fossil Máximo the Titanosaur from the second floor mezzanine.

Máximo the Titanosaur © Field Museum, 2018. Photo by Lucy Hewett

A poem for SUE®, an ode to Máximo, and verses dedicated to the coelacanth are among the offerings in an exhibit opening at the Field Museum during National Poetry Month. Simply titled “Poems by Eric Elshtain,” the exhibit features nine graphic panels of poetry by Elshtain, the Museum’s poet-in-residence. The panels will be installed near the displays that inspired them and the text will be in English and in Spanish.

The show opens Friday, April 15, and will be on view through April 2023. In addition to the poems inspired by SUE®, Máximo, and the coelacanth, the exhibit includes installations near the meteorites display; a duckbill dinosaur and a model of “Lucy,” a 3.2-million-year-old hominid, in Evolving Planet; the “What is an Animal?” exhibit; dioramas in “Mammals of Asia”; and the insects display in the Small Treasures Gallery. 

Elshtain hosts Poetry Pop-ups at the Museum every Thursday, included in basic admission. 

“Many of Eric Elshtain’s poems are about animals,” says exhibitions project manager Janet Hong.  “His poems make you think about what’s different between the way a zoologist looks at animals, and what a poet or keen-eyed museum visitor would notice.”  

Elshtain has been the Field’s poet-in-residence since 2017. Visitors can often find him sitting in different gallery spaces, with his typewriter at the ready to help guests interpret what they are seeing around the Museum – including plants, animals, and beings that lived long, long, ago.

“Poetry gives visitors an entry point to think about how they might imaginatively approach what they’re seeing, like the enormity of Máximo, or strangeness of the coelacanth,” Elshtain says. “My hope is that the opportunity to express themselves in a poem adds to the experience of visitors in the face of objects and ideas that seem so impossible to imagine.”

Elshtain asks visitors what they are thinking and feeling about the displays and has found that “people have a lot to say and they’re happy to have a place where they can say it and where their thoughts turn into a poem,” he says.