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Simon Armitage pens poem on cancer pill Simon Armitage pens poem on cancer pill
(about 1 hour later)
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has had his latest work micro-engraved on to the face of a replica cancer pill.Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has had his latest work micro-engraved on to the face of a replica cancer pill.
The poem, entitled Finishing It, is his second official offering in the new role and was commissioned by The Institute for Cancer Research.The poem, entitled Finishing It, is his second official offering in the new role and was commissioned by The Institute for Cancer Research.
It's intended "to promote and celebrate" the work being done for the advancement of cancer treatment.It's intended "to promote and celebrate" the work being done for the advancement of cancer treatment.
The writer said he's "optimistic about the about the potential of medicine and of poetry."The writer said he's "optimistic about the about the potential of medicine and of poetry."
Armitage's words were skilfully inscribed on to a 20mm long and 10mm-wide replica cancer treatment tablet by micro-engraver Graham Short and will be displayed in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery when it opens next year. Armitage's words were skilfully inscribed on to a 20mm x 10mm plaster-based replica cancer treatment tablet by micro-engraver Graham Short and will be displayed in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery when it opens next year.
'Common ground''Common ground'
The Yorkshireman told the BBC although the arts and science are two completely different fields, there is "a lot of common ground there" with regard to "creative thinking" and figuring out life.The Yorkshireman told the BBC although the arts and science are two completely different fields, there is "a lot of common ground there" with regard to "creative thinking" and figuring out life.
"I'm not a scientist by any means but I imagine what goes on in those labs is as much about trying to imagine a future," he said."I'm not a scientist by any means but I imagine what goes on in those labs is as much about trying to imagine a future," he said.
"So I started thinking about the idea of writing on a tablet and we associate that phrase with the Old Testament and the idea of the tablets given to Moses that were supposedly written by God's finger."So I started thinking about the idea of writing on a tablet and we associate that phrase with the Old Testament and the idea of the tablets given to Moses that were supposedly written by God's finger.
"I then started making the connection between a cure for cancer, miracles, and the fact that I couldn't deliver either of those in a poem.""I then started making the connection between a cure for cancer, miracles, and the fact that I couldn't deliver either of those in a poem."
He added: "But what I can offer, in the shape of a poem, and in the shape of this little pill - this little magic bullet - is a kind of hope."He added: "But what I can offer, in the shape of a poem, and in the shape of this little pill - this little magic bullet - is a kind of hope."
Armitage was personally affected by the disease after his friend, who was "very much involved in poetry", lost his battle with bone marrow cancer.Armitage was personally affected by the disease after his friend, who was "very much involved in poetry", lost his battle with bone marrow cancer.
Before his death, his mate spoke in glowing terms about the treatment he'd received at London's Royal Marsden hospital - a close partner of the ICR.Before his death, his mate spoke in glowing terms about the treatment he'd received at London's Royal Marsden hospital - a close partner of the ICR.
"That's one of the reasons why I'm very happy to get involved in this," said the poet."That's one of the reasons why I'm very happy to get involved in this," said the poet.
As well as stressing the need for "emotional hope" in both laboratories and libraries, the wordsmith noted the engraving of poems is "a really rich tradition in English literature."As well as stressing the need for "emotional hope" in both laboratories and libraries, the wordsmith noted the engraving of poems is "a really rich tradition in English literature."
He pointed to the Romantic poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake, who made etchings and engravings of his work, as an example.He pointed to the Romantic poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake, who made etchings and engravings of his work, as an example.
"Blake was a great visionary and I think there is something visionary about this project.""Blake was a great visionary and I think there is something visionary about this project."
The 56-year-old was appointed Poet Laureate back in May and said it's been "really exciting" so far.The 56-year-old was appointed Poet Laureate back in May and said it's been "really exciting" so far.
He declared this piece was "exactly the kind of project" he had in mind when he when took on the job, which has previously been undertaken by Carole Ann Duffy, Sir John Betjeman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.He declared this piece was "exactly the kind of project" he had in mind when he when took on the job, which has previously been undertaken by Carole Ann Duffy, Sir John Betjeman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
"This is about a subject that affects most families at some time and I'm very happy that the poem's used by the Institute in whatever way they want," he said."This is about a subject that affects most families at some time and I'm very happy that the poem's used by the Institute in whatever way they want," he said.
"I've only been doing this job if you can call it up for a couple of months now but this feels like the work I should be doing as a public poet.""I've only been doing this job if you can call it up for a couple of months now but this feels like the work I should be doing as a public poet."
'Exquisite precision''Exquisite precision'
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, believes the tiny piece of poetry is symbolic of the work being done under the microscope by some of the country's top scientists.Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, believes the tiny piece of poetry is symbolic of the work being done under the microscope by some of the country's top scientists.
"Simon Armitage's poem engraved on a pill perfectly conveys the exquisite precision of the work the ICR's scientists will be conducting in our new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery,""Simon Armitage's poem engraved on a pill perfectly conveys the exquisite precision of the work the ICR's scientists will be conducting in our new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery,"
"The aim is to create a new generation of cancer medicines," he added."The aim is to create a new generation of cancer medicines," he added.
Speaking over the phone from the new research centre, Armitage concluded "it seems inevitable" this kind of research would soon put an end to cancer as we know it.Speaking over the phone from the new research centre, Armitage concluded "it seems inevitable" this kind of research would soon put an end to cancer as we know it.
"In my lifetime, a cure for cancer is is one of those things that people talk about - 'Will we ever see a cure for cancer?'"In my lifetime, a cure for cancer is is one of those things that people talk about - 'Will we ever see a cure for cancer?'
"And now, talking to somebody earlier here they were slightly reframing the question in terms of - 'Can we can we find a way of managing cancer and living with cancer in a way that's happened with other ailments and illnesses', and so on."And now, talking to somebody earlier here they were slightly reframing the question in terms of - 'Can we can we find a way of managing cancer and living with cancer in a way that's happened with other ailments and illnesses', and so on.
"So it might be that there's a philosophical aspect to this, as well as a medical one.""So it might be that there's a philosophical aspect to this, as well as a medical one."
Finishing it by Simon ArmitageFinishing it by Simon Armitage
I can't configureI can't configure
a tableta tablet
chiselled by God's fingerchiselled by God's finger
or forgeor forge
a scrawled prescription,a scrawled prescription,
but here's an inscription, formedbut here's an inscription, formed
on the small white doton the small white dot
of its ownof its own
full stop,full stop,
the sugared pillthe sugared pill
of a poem, one sentenceof a poem, one sentence
that speaks illthat speaks ill
of illness itself, bulletof illness itself, bullet
with cancer's namewith cancer's name
carved brazenly on it.carved brazenly on it.
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