Professor Kimberly Campanello's Inaugural Lecture: 'Words Change States: The Public Poet'

The School of English, the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, and the National Poetry Centre are pleased to present this inaugural lecture-performance.

Professor of Poetry Kimberly Campanello will give her inaugural lecture-performance ‘Words Change States: The Public Poet’ on Thursday 2 May. She will be introduced by UK Poet Laureate Professor Simon Armitage (University of Leeds) and Dr Adam Hanna (University College Cork). The lecture-performance will take place at the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall at the School of Music on campus from 17.30 – 19.00.
(Please note change of venue.)

A copy of Campanello’s poetry-object MOTHERBABYHOME will be exhibited in the Sheppard Room at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery from 15.00 – 17.00 on 2 May (curated by Professor Fiona Becket, University of Leeds).  

The event and the exhibition are free and open to the public. Please book your ticket for the lecture at

Drawing upon her engagement with visionary poetics from the medieval period to the present, Kimberly will articulate the many ways poets address and challenge the public and language itself. She will perform from significant examples of her work, including ‘Moving Nowhere Here’, her long poem about her experience of Young Onset Parkinson’s, MOTHERBABYHOME about the St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co. Galway, and work-in-progress that engages with Dante, dialect, translation, and her Italian American background in Elkhart, Indiana.  

Across all her writing, Kimberly’s abiding preoccupation is with the power of language to ‘change states’ in all senses of the phrase – changing our understandings of the law and the State, changing our emotional-physical-spiritual-intellectual states, and changing its own state as each word shifts and morphs with every use and encounter. 

This lecture-performance will illuminate Kimberly’s approaches to the practice of poetry, alongside the vital questions of living as an ‘I’ and an ‘Us’ that poetry uniquely explores and remembers.  

Words do this. Words change states. Words make things happen. Words make things happen always, or as long as a word like always can be made to last. Which is forever. 
All this possible meaning drawn from words that, even when pressed into stone, onto air or paper or lamb skin, slip away into the cave within a cave that holds the statue of the woman who speaks, as words should.  
If K needs a vision, needs meaning, she makes it happen here. With care. Again. For the first time. Forever. You read it here before it slips away. Changed.

About our speaker 

Kimberly Campanello is Professor of Poetry and Practice Research Lead in the School of English at the University of Leeds.  

Kimberly is internationally-recognised for MOTHERBABYHOME, a 796-page visual poetry-object and reader’s edition book (zimZalla, 2019), which is currently on display at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI).

She is an inaugural Markievicz Award winner from Ireland’s Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Arts Council, and she represented the UK in Munich at Klang Farben Text: Visual Poetry for the 21st Century, a festival organised by the British Council, the National Poetry Library, and Lyrik Kabinett.

Her poem ‘Moving Nowhere Here’, on her experience of young onset Parkinson’s diagnosis, was the most read poem in Granta in 2023.  

Her work has been described by poet Pádraig Ó Tuama as: ‘a confrontation, a lamentation, a powerful objection and a revolution’. In Poetry, Politics, and the Law in Modern Ireland, Adam Hanna says that ‘MOTHERBABYHOME reminds us, though poems can never substitute for legal scrutiny, or replace the need for the pursuit of justice by a legal system, we should nevertheless not underestimate what they can do. They are spaces that exist outside the narratives, and therefore the elisions and erasures, of the state. Indeed, as is the case in Campanello’s poetry-object, they can enact new forms in which these elisions and erasures become visible.’

Kimberly is a member of the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, the School of English Practice Research, and Medical Humanities Research Groups, the Leeds Centre for Dante Studies, and the Centre for Practice Research in the Arts (CePRA).  

Since her arrival at Leeds in 2018, Kimberly has fostered the growth of Creative Writing in the School, establishing and leading the BA English Literature with Creative Writing, inaugurating the student literary magazine Tenter Hook, developing an MA Creative Writing, and recruiting and supporting a growing cohort of PhD researchers. 

Photo credit:  Elisabeth Greil for the British Council.