The Poem That Ate Pollution

“In Praise of Air,” a poem by Simon Armitage, is the world’s first catalytic poem.

Printed on a giant 65-feet by 32-feet banner, mounted on the wall of a building on the University of Sheffield campus, it overlooks a busy interstate.

It’s set on a piece of fabric, sprayed with a coating of tiny particles of titanium dioxide, a photocatalyst—an agent capable of triggering a chain of chemical reactions while itself, remaining unchanged.

When light—sunlight, streetlight or headlights—falls on it, its electrons are liberated from their nuclear captivity. Free to roam, they accost the oxygen molecules in the air, and infect them with an equal enthusiasm, so that they run around wildly, ultimately, breaking down the pollutants into a harmless solution that can be washed away.

One square-meter of the “page” can, on a day, remove the pollution emitted by one bus or 20 cars.



Limerick — 1

Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a man of the 19th century, wasn’t writing in the Digital Age. But he invented a form of four-line poem that gels with our times. He gave this style his middle name.

A relative of the limerick, a clerihew has one less line. It begins with the name of a famous person and continues, in irregular meter, with an absurdist biography.

Sir Christopher Wren

Said: I am going to dine with some men
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.