Monday 10 January 2011

A grand day out in Sheffield 3 - Hallam

Just above the station, is Sheffield Hallam University and scribed on the end of one of their tallest buildings, half way up Howard Street, is this poem by former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion.

Written specifically for this location, it is part of the 2007 'Off The Shelf' literature festival; Sheffield's annual celebration of Reading and Writing - one of the UK's biggest and most significant festivals of the written word, which offers a full and wide-ranging programme for all ages.

Andrew Motion was Poet Laureate between 1999 and 2009 and was awarded an honorary Doctorate at Hallam University in 2002. He became SIR Andrew Motion when he was knighted for services to literature in 2009.

This isn't the only poem displayed around the city, but it's the only one for which I have a photo. One day soonish, I must return and seek out the rest!
Sir Andrew Motion's brief was to write a poem which would grab the attention of the visitor to the city. What do you think? Did he succeed? Does it make sense?


  1. The poem would certainly grab my attention, and make me think.
    I hope you're able to find the other poems and show them here.

  2. It certainly grabs ones attention, being somewhat unusual - a poem inscribed hugely on the towering wall of a building. Clever idea - I do like that. As far as whether it makes sense to me, personally...the third verse is certainly apt and vividly descriptive, of words exposed to all the elements, to be shaped and weathered by time, but I must admit the second verse has me puzzled...What If...WHAT??? What was he hoping the visitor would wonder about...what if the wall had a different poem? Sorry, I couldn't resist being insolent ;) The last verse makes some sense to me - new visitor, new city, hence new experiences and new people await, but I'm once again lost with the line, "city where your dreaming is re-paid."
    In what way, exactly? Nope, I'm lost there, too.

    I apologise in advance for my lack of clarity and admission of ignorance. As a knighted Poet Laureate he clearly impressed a knowledgeable audience. Not falling into that category myself, I hadn't heard of him till now, and have therefore not read any of his poetry...but I'm afraid he has me beat with this one.

    I'd be grateful for any profferred enlightenment. Until then, I'll go and hide in the little hole I've just dug myself.

    1. Pause now and read
      what you just writ..
      read it again
      and then admit..
      poetry is not for you
      is it..?
      is it..?
      is it..?

      signed (as all great poetry is) by..

  3. Yes it works. I remember the first time I saw it. It was pouring with rain and cold, but I stood there and read the entire thing with a great sense of unexpected pleasure.

  4. Certainly different - I quite like what I've read of Motion's work. I always enjoy reading those 'Poems on the Underground' in London - I never stood on the street to read one though.

  5. Meant to say, to add a signature I followed this tutorial.

  6. Hi Desiree, I suspect that the interpretation of a poem is often subjective. Because the poem is on the side of a university building, I think about the What if..? in terms of What if I had expanded my horizons beyond what they are now? What if I could absorb all of the learning and culture that Sheffield has to offer? I'm sure that other people have other What if...?s

    I love the idea of poetry on walls, windows, balconies... It makes it more accessible to those of us who rarely read it otherwise. It certainly adds a bit of interest :)

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your interpretation, H! I had briefly considered something along similar lines, but discounted it, as you'd mentioned the original brief was to "grab the attention of the visitor to the city," and so I felt it should have had a broader interpretation...also, I know very little about Sheffield, so was not aware of its cultural significance. I'll need to do some background reading :)

    I heartily agree with you that making poetry a lot more accessible is an excellent idea.