Taking a stanza: Simon Armitage most cancers poem engraved on a tablet

Taking a stanza: Simon Armitage cancer poem engraved on a pill


Simon Armitage’s newest poem, a “bullet / with most cancers’s title / carved overtly on it”, is but to be printed or learn aloud by the poet laureate from the stage. As an alternative, the work has been engraved by micro-artist Graham Brief on to a 2cm x 1cm chemotherapy tablet, in what Brief mentioned was most likely the toughest job had had ever finished.

Entitled Ending It, the poem – Armitage’s second as poet laureate – was commissioned by the Institute of Most cancers Analysis in London. It’s supposed to symbolise the brand new era of most cancers therapies that the Institute’s deliberate Centre for Most cancers Drug Discovery will create, and which it hopes will flip most cancers right into a manageable illness.

“I can’t configure / a pill / chiselled by God’s finger,” writes Armitage. As an alternative, the poet has crafted “the sugared tablet / of a poem, one sentence / that speaks sick // of sickness itself”.

Working to 51 phrases, the poem was given to Brief to engrave on a reproduction chemotherapy tablet, which is meant to symbolize the medicine that the Institute hopes to develop within the new centre.

‘Right here’s an inscription’ … one facet of the tablet engraved by Graham Brief. {Photograph}: John Angerson

“The tablet stored crumbling and it was so troublesome to do,” mentioned Brief, who swims 10,000 metres a day to decrease his resting pulse charge, and works from midnight to 5am to keep away from vibrations from passing visitors.

“I work in an uncommon method, carrying a stethoscope and taking tablets to get my coronary heart charge all the way down to 20-25 bpm. What I’m attempting to do then, utilizing very high quality needles, is engrave between heartbeats.”

Brief’s pill might be displayed within the Centre for Most cancers Drug Discovery when it opens in 2020. Presently below building – and nonetheless requiring an extra £14m in donations to be accomplished – the centre is meant to carry collectively lots of of scientists to collaborate on a programme that may overcome most cancers’s means to develop resistance to medicine.

Micro-artist Graham Short.

‘It was so troublesome to do’ … Graham Brief. {Photograph}: John Angerson

Armitage mentioned: “Science and poetry are nearer associates than many individuals assume, and it was thrilling to work on a venture that offers with cutting-edge medical analysis. And like science, poetry is a ‘what if’ exercise, imagining outcomes and potentialities based mostly on artistic considering.

“I preferred the sense that poem and tablet would possibly collaborate to provide each a medical and emotional remedy, and that one thing so minimalist may intention to carry down one thing so huge and harmful. I experimented for a very long time with the language – the shortest poems are at all times the toughest to put in writing, their smallness making them a lot extra conspicuous and weak.”

Dr Olivia Rossanese, who might be head of biology within the new centre, mentioned that Armitage’s poem “fantastically shares our story and symbolises the hope of what’s to return, the message made extra highly effective by being engraved on a tablet that represents the sorts of therapies that we are going to be creating within the very close to future”.

The centre, she added, would “provide a totally new and noteworthy method of working”, with computational biologists, geneticists, evolutionary scientists and drug discovery researchers “all working hand-in-hand in an unprecedented method”.


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