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Laureate Simon Armitage pens poem micro-engraved on pill in cancer fight

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The work was commissioned by the Institute of Cancer Research.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a poem for a pill in the fight against cancer.

The 51-word verse has been been micro-engraved on a replica tablet just 20mm (0.8in) wide.

Armitage wrote the work to symbolically show the precise science being brought to bear in the fight against cancer.

The Institute of Cancer Research, London commissioned Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to write a poem around the life-changing work that will revolutionise cancer treatment (John Angerson/ICR/PA)

The words of the poem, which was commissioned by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), were expertly etched on to the tiny replica pill by artist Graham Short.

Armitage said: “Science and poetry are closer associates than many people assume, and it was exciting to work on a project that deals with cutting-edge medical research.

“And, like science, poetry is a ‘what if’ activity, imagining outcomes and possibilities-based creative thinking.

“I liked the sense that poem and pill might collaborate to produce both a medical and emotional cure, and that something so minimalist could aim to bring down something so enormous and destructive.”

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The etching was made by Graham Short (John Angerson/ICR/PA)

The poem, titled Finishing It, reads: “I can’t configure/a tablet/chiselled by God’s finger/or forge/a scrawled prescription,/but here’s an inscription, formed/on the small white dot/of its own/full stop,/the sugared pill/of a poem, one sentence/that speaks ill/of illness itself, bullet/with cancer’s name/carved brazenly on it.”

The finished work will be displayed permanently at the Centre For Cancer Drug Discovery, aimed at researching drugs to effectively battle the disease, when it opens next year.

Professor Paul Workman, of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “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.

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“Our researchers are focusing on understanding, predicting and blocking the evolution of cancer, aiming to stay one step ahead of the disease using precision medicine and drug combinations, so that we can achieve long-term survival and cure.”

The ICR is seeking to raise £14 million to complete the centre where the poetic pill will be housed.

The Centre For Cancer Drug Discovery will focus on tackling adaptive resistance to anti-cancer medication.

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