Language Shift – an exhibition of endangered words

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library, Envy by Mary Kuper

Language Shift at Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library. Envy by Mary Kuper

This summer, Southbank Centre, London, is showcasing Language Shift, an exhibition of work by artist Mary Kuper created response to the National Poetry Library’s collection of poems in European languages.

In many ways, poetry is the written form that most celebrates and utilises the power and nuance of language. The Endangered Poetry Project has been launched by  in a bid to preserve poems written as launched its Endangered Poetry Project with the aim of collecting poems in at-risk languages, and acknowledging the disturbing fact that languages die out at the rate of one every two weeks.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

“For the Language Shift exhibition, Kuper has created visual works which exist as equivalent worlds to the poems they respond to and collectively create a visual map,” says Chris McCabe, Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Librarian. “These new works respond to languages that feature on UNESCO’s world map of endangered languages including Breton, Alsatian, Sardinian and Shetlandic.”

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

If you’ve ever listened to poetry read aloud in a language you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll be aware how immediately relatable cadence and delivery can render words in verse, making connections at unexpected emotional and cerebral levels. Kuper’s work is supported by a display of poetry films and poems in translation from the Talking Transformations project, curated by Ricarda Vidal and Manuela Perteghella, which offers a chance to sample this first hand. The poems shared inTalking Transformations focus on the idea of ‘home’ and ‘migration’ and reveal part of the poems’ journey through  the UK, Romania, Poland, France and Spain.

The perfect chance to take in the resonance of Europe’s diverse languages and shared human experiences.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library; works by Mary Kuper_photograph by Pete Woodhead2

Image credit: works by Mary Kuper; photographs by Pete Woodhead.

Language Shift is on at National Poetry Library (Level 5, Blue side, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX) until 23rd September 2018, and is free to visit.




Writing prompt – angles

London angles by Judy DarleyThe angle you take with a story is as important as the story itself, whether you’re writing fiction, non fiction, or something in between.

What you leave out, what you add in, how you emphasise the heart of the tale are all crucial to your end result.

To me this slide of London represents that perfectly, taking in past, present and possible futures.

What direction would you choose to take from here?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on