Poet Laureate Simon Armitage explains why he wrote a ‘poem on a pill’ to aid our cancer research


“Finishing it
I can’t configure a tablet
chiselled by God’s finger” The project is a commissioned poem. Commissioned
by The Institute of Cancer Research and the poem has been micro-engraved on to a pill.
And it’s recognition of, and in anticipation of the developments in drug treatment for
cancer. “but here’s an inscription, formed on the small white dot
of its own full stop,” The pill was probably the hardest job I’ve
ever done. The pill kept crumbling and it was so difficult to do. I work in really an
unusual way. I wear a stethoscope when I’m working and I take tablets to lower my heart
rate. I can get my heart rate down to about 20–25 beats a minute. Then what I try do
then using very fine needles is to engrave between heart beats. The new building will house the world’s first
Darwinian cancer drug discovery programme. And what we mean about that is large, multidisciplinary
teams made up of cancer biologists, chemists, evolutionary biologists, mathematicians, physicists.
All with a shared goal of understanding how cancer evolves and discovering new drugs to
combat that evolution. “A sugared pill
of a poem, one sentence that speaks ill of illness itself, bullet
with cancer’s name carved brazenly on it.”

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