Bucket List Road: Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry

6 minutes
After a decade at Oklahoma Today, Editor-in-chief Nathan Gunter is filling in the spots he's missed with his series, Bucket List Road.

One of my favorite poems—“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith—ends like this: “This place could be beautiful / right? You could make this place beautiful.”

That line resonated back at me across time recently as I drove away from the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry after my first visit there. I was coming through Locust Grove on my way to points east, and I stopped by the museum to see my friend Shaun Perkins, who created it.

I should take a moment and repent here: I’ve known Shaun since 2014, and this was my first visit to her miraculous space. I should’ve gone before now, because R.O.M.P. is one of those Oklahoma things that, for me, embodies the spirit of Maggie Smith’s poem: It is making this place more beautiful.

Old friends Nathan and Shaun Perkins meet up to talk at R.O.M.P. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Old friends Nathan and Shaun Perkins meet up to talk at R.O.M.P. Photo by Nathan Gunter

As museums go, it’s neither large nor typical. Filling up a small house on Locust Grove’s main drag, the museum’s collection defines eclectic, but every piece speaks of the power and joy of the creative spirit. There are things one might expect in a museum of poetry—an old typewriter at which Shaun writes custom poems, a case containing old autograph books in which people (Shaun’s mother among them) have written poetry, and lines of verse seemingly shining out from every wall.

Shaun's typewriter at R.O.M.P. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Shaun's typewriter at R.O.M.P. Photo by Nathan Gunter

But then there are things that are entirely unexpected, my favorite of which was a small closet with a black light and a psychedelic arrangement of doll heads, green Christmas lights, and an old tricycle arranged before a neon painting—a space for more out-there styles of contemplation before one dives into the blank page to see what sort of poem emerges.

It's hard not to be inspired, one way or another, looking at R.O.M.P.'s psychedelic closet. Photo by Nathan Gunter

It's hard not to be inspired, one way or another, looking at R.O.M.P.'s psychedelic closet. Photo by Nathan Gunter

And if a poem should emerge during your time at R.O.M.P., worry not—the space is packed with pens, crayons, paintbrushes, and any other art supply you might need to get your words down on paper.

And if all of that doesn’t pique your curiosity, R.O.M.P. now is hosting a photographic exhibit from the Oklahoma Historical Society. Titled Where They Went: A Photographic History of Oklahoma Animals, the exhibition is a collection of historic photographs of animals and their people throughout Oklahoma history. Turn the corner and you’ll see a photograph of famed artist Augusta Metcalf feeding a deer. Oh, and here’s a shot from the 1930s of a steer jumping over a car. Try not writing a poem about that. These beautiful black-and-white images trace Oklahomans’ relationships with their animals through our history, and it’s a lovely and sweet thing to behold.

This photo of August Metcalf feeding a deer hangs inside the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry. Photo by Nathan Gunter

This photo of August Metcalf feeding a deer hangs inside the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Where They Went is on display at R.O.M.P. through April 30, but the museum is open year-round. I was able to tour the space in about a half an hour—jump over to our podcast page to get my full interview and tour with Shaun—but I feel like the next time I go back, I’ll fill at least another half an hour seeing all the things I didn’t catch on this visit. R.O.M.P. is that kind of place—the kind where, no matter how much time you spend, you’re always ready to see what the next visit will bring.

Get There
Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry, 416 E Main St Locust Grove, OK 74352 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Nathan Gunter

Nate is an enthusiastic runner and cyclist and frequently can be seen making his way by foot or pedal through Oklahoma City streets. When not working, Nate is reading, writing, watching movies, playing video games, working in his garden, attending concerts, or taking off on road trips.

Nathan Gunter
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