Read poetry inspired by the RBSA Portrait Prize Exhibition

We invited writers to visit the RBSA during our recent Portrait Prize Exhibition, in a West Midlands Museum Development-funded workshop that is part of a wider project tackling loneliness.

Writers worked on their own personal interpretations of the artworks on display, and the result is an interesting blend of voices addressing themes of solitude, art history, and modern Britain.

Watch out for further activities at RBSA Gallery including tours, talks, bespoke sessions and a new printmaking handling resource created with the Estate of Paul Hipkiss.

The Gallery welcomes arts and literature practitioners working in a range of media, and holds regular workshops and events through the year.


Leo: Robert Page


Shadow as pigmentation, hollowing
the eyes, is how the sculptor can avoid
the precision of painters’ dots, light
on glassy irises, the ping of the tip
of an almost hairless brush, the skill,
the luck, of aligning them in one, no
scraping off, that Van Dyck touch,
imparting life.
…………………………….This head pivots
on the apex of its throat, mouth, nose,
chin thrust forward, hair electrically charged,
Mercury delivering his message through
blacked-out windows, blind spy-holes
in the anthracitic sheen of  bronze
on Roman stone: I am
a god of the ancient world, I am
a being of the Renaissance, I am
de profundis, I am
darkness visible, I am
empty as my eyes, I am

Jacqui Rowe


The Girl at the Window

Beverley Healy, ‘Rhema at the Window’

Beverley Healy Rhema at the Window

Defiant against her backdrop
she draws away from its demands,
offering a delicate facade,
prohibiting any insight,
looking beyond the space in which she is confined,
a grey apathy in her gaze.

We are not permitted to consider
what she looks towards
or what exists in her shadow behind,
only the exterior that she grants us
where her youth pleads unpolluted. 

Lydia Jones


Francesca Currie, ‘Lewis’


So, welcome back
child of light and shadow.
Bacchus in beauty,
“Keep him away from the girls!”
(“And away from the boys.”)
Breathless in beauty,
gaze straight as an arrow,
bright as a shaft of light in a world new-born.
body to die for.  Body to live for.
Welcome back, Caravaggio,
we’ve been a long time waiting.

Alison Absolute

Homeless Not Helpless

Tat Elsbury, ‘Homeless Not Helpless’

Elsbury.Tat.Homeless not hopeless

I am homeless, not helpless, he said,
his pale face looming from the
crumpled nest of his grimy hood
and his dirty, disordered hair.

But daily there are headlines shouting
of evictions, health alerts,
mental health and destitution;
theirs is a different tale to tell.

I looked again at the blank and blemished face,
his teeth chipped and stained,
his smile forced and feigned, full of false hope
and thin as his defences against the cold winter wind.

I’m not helpless, he said
as his every fibre screamed
I am utterly helpless.
Please help.

Huw Jones


The RBSA has been working with West Midlands Museum Development to encourage more people to encounter and respond to art. The Portrait Prize creative writing workshop, led by Louise Palfreyman, invited personal interpretations of portraiture by writers and poets living and working in the region.

This work is part of a project funded by the West Midlands Museum Development Fund, which is managed by Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust with funding from Arts Council England.