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Like a stanza: A Simon Armitage Cancer Poem Engraved on a Pill | Books

The latest poem by Simon Armitage, "a bullet / with the name of a cancer / carved on it brazenly", is still to be printed or read aloud by a poet laureate from the stage. Instead, the work was engraved by micro artist Graham Short on a 2 cm x 1 cm pill, which Short said was probably the hardest job he ever did.

Titled "Completing it," the poem – Armitage is the poet's second-ever laureate – has been commissioned by the Cancer Research Institute in London. It is designed to symbolize the new generation of cancer treatments that the Cancer Center's planned cancer detection center will create, and which hopes to turn cancer into a treatable disease.

"I can't configure / tablet / chisel from God's finger," Armitage wrote. Instead, the poet created "a sugar pill (a poem, a sentence) that speaks badly about the disease itself."

Going up to 51 words, the poem was given to Short to engrave on a replica a pill for chemotherapy, designed to showcase the drugs the Institute hopes to develop at the new center.

One side of the pill engraved by Short.

Here's the inscription … one side of the pill engraved by Graham Short. Photo: John Angerson

"The pill kept crumbling and it was so hard to do," says Short, who swims 10,000 meters a day to lower her pulse at rest and work from midnight to 5 in the morning to avoid vibrations from passing traffic. .

"I work out of the ordinary, wearing a stethoscope and drinking pills to reduce my heart rate to 20-25 bpm. What I'm trying to do then, using very fine needles, is engraving between the heartbeats. "

Short's tablet will be displayed at the Cancer Discovery Center when it opens in 2020. Currently, an additional 14 million pounds of donations are still under construction to complete – the center aims to raise hundreds of scientists to collaborate on the program will overcome cancer's ability to develop drug resistance.

Micro artist Graham Short.

"It was so hard to do" … Graham Short. Photo: John Angerson

Armitage said: "Science and poetry are closer collaborators than many would imagine, and it was exciting to work on a project that addresses cutting-edge medical research. And like science, poetry is a "what to do" activity, imagining results and opportunities based on creative thinking.

"I liked the feeling that the poem and the pill could work together to create both medical and emotional healing, and that something so minimalist could aim to bring down something so overwhelming and destructive. I've experimented with language for a long time – the shortest poems are always the hardest to write, their smallness makes them all the more noticeable and vulnerable. "

Dr. Olivia Rosanese, who will be head of biology at the new center, said Armitage's poem "beautifully shares our story and symbolizes the hope of what is to come, the message has become more powerful by engraving on a pill, which is the kind of treatment that we will develop in the very near future. "

The center, she added, "will offer a whole new and remarkable way of working," with computational biologists, geneticists, evolutionary scientists and drug discovery researchers "all working hand in hand in an unprecedented way."

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