In Focus

Blood of a Poet Box 1965–8 by Eleanor Antin

Blood of a Poet Box 1965–8 was Eleanor Antin’s first conceptual artwork, introducing the themes of identity, originality and genius to her artistic practice.

Eleanor Antin, Blood of a Poet Box 1965–8

Eleanor Antin
Blood of a Poet Box 1965–8
Wood, cardboard, glass slides, blood, brass, paper and ink
Displayed: 28 x 290 x 405 mm
Tate T14882
© Eleanor Antin
Photo © Tate

American artist Eleanor Antin produced Blood of a Poet Box very early in her career, while she was living in New York. The work comprises a green specimen box containing one hundred glass slides, each holding a blood sample that Antin took from a poet – a loosely defined category that also included artists, performers and dancers. A handwritten list stuck inside the box lid catalogues these contributors, whose blood was taken by Antin at the many poetry readings and performance events that were a feature of the New York avant-garde during the 1960s.

Blood of a Poet Box has received little scholarly attention, and this In Focus proposes it as a crucial work in Antin’s oeuvre. Essays consider the work in relation to the New York poetry scene and Antin’s expansive definition of the term ‘poet’, and look at its connection to conventional portraiture. Blood of a Poet Box is framed in relation to historical precedents and contemporary artistic movements, and a specially conducted interview with Antin reveals her inspiration for the work, the process of making it and its meaning for her later in life. In addition, this In Focus reproduces ‘A Long Poem for Eleanor Who Collects the Blood of Poets’ (1965) by Diane Wakoski, whose blood is held in the box.

Published in March 2019, the project is authored by Lucy Bradnock (University of Nottingham) and includes an interview with the artist Eleanor Antin and a poem by the poet Diane Wakoski.

ISBN 978-1-84976-531-2