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Celebrating National Poetry Day 2022

The Science Museum Group is celebrating National Poetry Day for a second year (6 October 2022).

We invited poets to write a piece inspired by the extraordinary, unusual, and beautiful objects in our collection. In response to our invitation, we received 50 outstanding poems, all incredibly creative and also considered, heart-breaking and funny.

You can read our finalists’ poems below. Thanks to everyone who participated this year – it made selecting our final list for publication quite hard.

The poems cover topics from purpose, love, and an elephant’s booties, to jiggers and orthodontics.

Each poem has a link through to the object which inspired the poem. Why not click through to have an explore of our Collection. You can also explore our collection using our online tools, Random Object Generator or Never Been Seen, which highlights objects not seen by the public before.

Happy National Poetry Day 2022!

Culpeper Microscope by Sarah M Davies

Culpeper microscope, with rack focusing (worn), English, early 19th century
Inspired by: Culpeper Microscope


Why are you looking at me?

You should be looking through me.

I am your magic portal.

I can show you the secrets hidden

In the tiniest fragments of your world.


I am not for looking at.

I am not beautiful or bejewelled.

I am function over form.

I have a job to do

I can help you make sense of all the

Wonders of your world.

So why are you looking at me?


I am simple.

I am old and worn.

A tool.

Not treasured.

I am for using.

A piece of a laboratory.


Not special.

So why are you looking at me?

Copyright © Sarah M. Davies, 2022

Never Been Seen by Glyn Morgan

A carbon arc lamp, bright, brilliant.

Brass and glass, delicately resilient,

It lights no more the Georgian dusk,

Collected now, in nation’s trust.


A bleeding bowl, pewter black,

used on patients some time back.

Emptied out of reddened gore,

Medical ways we see no more.


‘A sad complaint for man and beast’:

An elephant with tender feet.

Ranee with her bootees on,

Gentlest giant, the saddest song.

Copyright © Glyn Morgan, 2022

Indented Lines by Amaan Hyder

Inspired by: Orthodontic appliance, lower, vulcanite with central expansion screw, probably English, 1880-1910

For the mouth,

a mouthful to tame

the unsightly, over-

eagerness of skull.

Toothprint scoops

these flared

wings marked


Tectonic shifts

behind lips. I mouth

teenagehood’s grind,

recall years of braces

until I was aligned, even

more sure of my swerve.

That I did not fit.

Copyright © Amaan Hyder, 2022

Analogue camera by Cat Caie

Inspired by: Kodak “Retina I” camera with Compur rapid shutter, 1935.

I love the last photograph that we took together.

There’s a storm ready to rage behind us.

Yet, we look so happy,

oblivious of the future.


But, the clouds are nearing

and my hands are slipping…


A sky coated in clouds,

no moon in sight

and the love,


the love that was once there

has lost its fight.

The love that was once there

is stuck within


the last photograph.

Copyright © Cat Caie, 2022

Jigger by Emilie Lauren Jones

Inspired by: Receiving ‘jigger’ used by the Marconi Company, 1898

My millennial brain can’t be sure what you’re for,

strange bug sending messages

across the world.

Lying on your back,

wiggling legs play with air.

Your coiled heart constructs songs,

notes resonate.

Stay singing, little bug

beneath the oscillating clouds.

Copyright © Emilie Lauren Jones, 2022

‘But Not Always’ by Garrath Wilson

Inspired by: The Method of Landing Bullocks which are taken from the ship in a boat and pushed overboard. When some way from the shore they usually swim to the land, but not always

Blue fields for grazing,

In rolling meadows of spray,

Bound, but not always.

Copyright © Garrath Wilson, 2022

A637528 Rectangular tortoiseshell snuff box by Carole Bromley

Inspired by: Rectangular tortoiseshell snuff box

I was that tortoise. Or, rather, that turtle.

A hawksbill caught off Madagascar.

They didn’t want my meat, it was my shell

that was so prized. I could have been

a jewellery box, a piece of fine furniture,

a picture frame. But I was killed

for this. To be a box containing snuff,

a box not even on display, hinge damaged,

the silver pins on my lid hidden from view,

my contents sniffed up a rich man’s nostril.

If you open the lid you can smell it.

Don’t. Imagine me as I was, huge, magnificent,

so innocent I was easy to catch, to throw

on my back in a small boat, my claws

frantically paddling. I dream of blue water.

I dream of bright fishes, green reeds,

sunlight above those white, white, waves.

Copyright © Carole Bromley, 2022

Old Soul by Hayden Loralye Hathaway

Inspired by: Pair of children’s clogs

Close to a hundred and fifty years ago I stood firm. My wood and metal insides blanketed by worn leather, pulled taught and nailed many times over.

The poorest children were saddled with me. Economical, long lived and practical.

I was traded for larger shoes and handed down again to a smaller child.

Together we marched along through filth and poverty, never faltering. Always moving forward.

Carrying the child’s small feet, we traversed the dank, wet, putrid and sodden slums seeking food and clothing to cover the poorest of children’s little bodies.

The floors of work houses heard the din each day, hours upon hours as hundreds of shoes like me tapped out a sort of code with each movement on the cracked and aged wood floors.

Help me… I’m tired and hungry. Cold and afraid.

I’m a very old soul. Worn each day concealing chapped and dirty little feet. There was no other choice to be made. A child did what they were told or starved.

I’m a old soul and throughout my time I have had many little feet take refuge with in my sturdy hard base. I cradled them as best I could.

An old soul such as I has been a part of life’s story. Life, sickness and death. Dreams, hopes all dashed against the rocks leading to the sea.

I have existed as have hundreds of other souls just like me. All of us tired, worn, threadbare and old, seeking respite for the child who faithfully wore us. For, they too have become old souls just as we are.

Copyright © Hayden Loralye Hathaway, 2022

Tracing a Mystery by Madeleine E. Vaughan

Inspired by: 30-inch reproduction of a 200-inch Map of the Moon

When I look at your surface

Pockmarked and aglow

I trace each crater carefully

For a shape that I know


A rabbit, or a man,

A Lady, or a toad

A silvery palace

Left to erode


A face that waxes,

And a face that wanes,

And pulls glittering tides

Over long, sandy straits.


Yet though I have traced you

Onto paper with pen

Your other side illudes me

Time and again.


My nightly companion

from first to final breath

Was a mystery at my birth

And is a mystery at my death.

Copyright © Madeleine E. Vaughan, 2022

Feeling inspired to write your own? Explore our Random Object Generator and send your poem to [email protected].