Poems for Ophelia

TT Journal, ISSUE 4, 12th September 2022

By Amy Neilson Smith

Ophelia in Exile, 2021, by Tereza Stehlíková, featuring Tereza Kamenická


In this contribution poet and performer Amy Neilson Smith shares with us two poems which she wrote in response to her encounter with Ophelia in Exile. Amy’s poems were conceived at the gallery & came to life on a woman’s writing residency after an inspiring nature Zen nature walk outside in the freezing beauty of Dorset, Kingcombe Centre, hosted by poet Dr Lucy English & Helen Sheppard.

Ophelia in Exile was an exhibition by Tereza Stehlíková, which was on at the Vitrínka Gallery, Czech Centre London between October 2021- March 2022. The exhibition explored the fictional character of Ophelia, who has been quarantined in her home for an indefinite period of time. Ophelia has been exiled from the outside world: from contact with people, from nature, from a full human experience. Instead, she encounters the world through windows of monitors, engaged in Zoom calls or simply browsing Instagram, searching for images of the natural world which she longs to touch, smell. After many months of her strange sterile existence Ophelia began to feel two dimensional, like the version of herself inside a computer monitor.

Below are some of the photos which form part of Amy Neilson Smith’s research:

For one of her poems Amy Neilson Smith researched the (real & imagined) ingredients of Ophelia’s perfume, which was displayed on Ophelia’s desk. Below is a photo of the list, as it was hand written by perfumer Sarah McCartney, who created this bespoke perfume for Ophelia.

Ophelia in Exile, 2021, photo by Michaela Reznakova

You can download Amy Neilson Smith’s poems as a PDF below.

Below are audio versions of Amy’s poems available for a download.

Amy Neilson Smith is a poet, performer and Creative Director of A Blind Bit of Difference, an inclusive arts charity. https://www.ablindbitofdifference.co.uk/ They just launched Riding the Sensory-Sonic Slide (Big White Shed), a magical book of poems bursting through the mouths, ears and eyes of young people with special needs. Amy was selected by director Dr Tereza Stehlikova to join a team of 80 international multisensory designers at Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space; they transformed an empty stadium into an immersive sensory experience. Amy was a Sensory Artist at the debut disability-led Sensibility Festival (Sense, Graeae Theatre and Bittersuite) – she garnered a personal feature in The Guardian. Publications include: Dark Matter (collection), The Morning Star, Artemis, Indigo Dreams (Macmillan Cancer) alongside Carol Ann-Duffy; she was commissioned by Live Cannon, launched at the V&A. Performances include: Royal Festival Hall, touring Poetry Can F**k Off, Peter Hall Company, BBC and ITV. Activism: Amy is in the poetry activist collective Poets for the Planet; through publicly sponsored performances, and Amy joining forces with the likes of Dame Harriet Walter, Bill Patterson, Jacqueline Saphra and Sophie Herxheimer, they raised nearly £30,000 for Ukraine aid. Amy featured at Richmix with Saudha, Society of Poetry and Indian Music, directed by peace activist T M Ahmed Kaysher; she reacted to recent war upheavals. Her Poem ‘A maternity hospital in Mariupol’ featured in a national newspaper: “Theatre-activist Amy Neilson Smith read verses about “torn tectonic plates, as fresh eggs are cracked, cooked and served on Putin’s cold plate”. Amy is currently directing Sensory Microphone (British Council) having just returned fromSenegal, connecting the senses between disabled artists from the UK and Africa, via accessible filmmaking (with Dr Kate Dangerfield) and the life enhancing joys of immersive sensory art.

If you want to learn more about Ophelia in Exile please visit: