Tate Modern Course

The Spirit of Things: Poetry of the Body Led by award winning poet Pascale Petit

How can poems be as visceral as the portraits by Marlene Dumas? Her intense, highly charged works explore sexuality, love, guilt, and death, with provocative force. She does not shy away from intimate subjects including self-portraits, her daughter, as well as controversial public figures.

This poetry course delves into the exhibition Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden, as well as other displays in Tate’s collections, employing all the senses to conjure bodies in their full power, perhaps reaching beyond the physical, as Walt Whitman did, to ‘sing the body electric’, or, as Marlene Dumas has said, ‘to paint what you cannot see, the spirit of things’. 

Discussions around works by leading contemporary poets who engage fully with the body, such as Sharon Olds, Mark Doty and Natalie Diaz, offer inspiration to your own writing, with opportunity to work in small groups for feedback on poems in progress. All sessions take place in the galleries when they are closed to the public, with the chance to respond directly to masterpieces of modern art.

This course is suitable for writers with some experience of poetry workshops. Ticket price includes drinks following the course sessions.


Pascale Petit’s sixth poetry collection Fauverie is shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize; a portfolio of poems from it won the Manchester Poetry Prize. Her fifth book What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo was shortlisted for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year and it was a Book of the Year in the Observer. A Next Generation poet, she has been Poetry Editor of Poetry London and is a founding tutor of The Poetry School.

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


16 February 2014 – 23 March 2015 at 18.45–20.15

Related events

  • Tate Modern

    Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

    5 Feb – 10 May 2015
    This large-scale survey of Marlene Dumas is the most significant exhibition of her work ever to be held in Europe. …