Poet Laureate Simon Armitage writes poem that fits on a cancer pill


According to Simon Armitage, the shortest poems are always the hardest to write.

His first public commission as Poet Laureate, then, must have been one of the toughest tasks of his career. Armitage has written a poem short enough to fit on two sides of a pill.

The work, Finishing It, is 51 words long and can fit onto the pill that measures just 22mm long and 10mm tall.

It was commissioned by the Institute of Cancer Research and engraved on the tiny tablet – a gypsum powder replica of a real pill – to convey the “incredible precision science” behind the latest cancer treatments.

The work, in its own words, is “the sugared pill of a poem, one sentence that speaks ill of illness itself, bullet with cancer’s name carved brazenly on it”. It will go on display at the Institute’s Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery when it opens in London next year.


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