This rather modest-looking object is a votive womb. They were offered to the gods to help with fertility problems in Etruscan times and left by sacred pools, much like coins are thrown into wishing wells today. This one is terracotta but some were made from bread or cake, apparently. (I'm not sure how this is known but it is touching). The wavy lines are said to represent contractions.
I was given the womb to write about as part of a poetry project with the Wellcome Collection in London.
There are more than 500 such votive offerings in the collection, including feet, ears, hands and bladders. Sanctuaries could become so full of such offerings that it became difficult to walk through them. Not so in the Wellcome, where they are displayed beautifully and are worth a visit.
You may remember that I wrote about glass models of the Downy Mildew fungus at The Whipple Museum in Cambridge. Well, this was my second object to write about and I found it pretty heavy in a metaphorical sense. It was quite hard to respond to as wombs are freighted with so much life - however, in the end it produced three poems. It was interesting how I had to make several approaches to the object before feeling I had done it and myself any justice. There was the head-on descriptive poem which came first. Then came the slant-wise approach - looking from an unusual perspective in time.
And then that freed me up to take a third look which was more of a grand sweep exploring biological concepts. The exercise made me think of the notion that the first idea about something can be similar to how most people respond, the second idea may be what some may come up with, and the third response can be original - but hopefully resonate with others too and connected with earlier ideas.
The end result of this is going to be a new collection of poems with a foreword by Don Paterson, with two poems from everyone in our group - the Nevada Street poets.
We - myself, Lorraine Mariner, Mick Delap, Malene Engelund, Kelley Swain, Richard Barnett and Dominic McLoughlin - have all responded to two objects - one from the Whipple Museum of the History of Science and one inspired by objects in the 'Medicine Man' collection at the Wellcome.
Pocket Horizon, a pamphlet of these poems with drawings by Cassie Herschel-Shorland will be published this autumn by Valley Press.
The other objects are intriguing - they include a Scold's Bridle, a collection of horses' teeth, artificial limbs, a wave machine, a Grand Orrery, and a gleeful memento mori worn on a chain.
It promises to be an eclectic, fascinating read.