Shrewsbury School

Double prizewinning poet

Monday 18 June 2012

Budding Fourth Form poet Theo Simmons (Ch) landed two prizes with his poetry at the School Prizegiving ceremony which took place last Friday. 'Soulweight', and a talk about it, won him the prestigious McEachran Prize, and the same poem along with with two others submitted won him the R S Thomas poetry prize. His housemaster Richard Hudson asked Theo about 'Soulweight' ....


“I wrote ‘Soulweight’ last year on a dark wintry evening sometime around the death of my Grandmother.

McEachran once said that there has to be an element of chaos involved to produce something of creativity. Well, as I’m sure many of you will have experienced, there are few things in life that bring more chaos internally than death. Consequently I would describe this poem as having two parents, my experiences at the time being one of them.

The other, however, was an article that I read in the New Scientist. It was entitled ‘soul weight’ or something similar, and went on to describe how several scientific studies claim to have recorded the loss in grams of the human soul, at the exact moment of death. This was a concept that fascinated me, not so much the reputability of the various studies, but simply the pure idea. The poem, I suppose, was something spontaneous that came out of that. Truly grappling for the first time with ideas of life and death, the concepts around the physical soul provided an interesting entry point into questions surrounding our existence and the human condition to which no one I know of holds the definitive answers. 

The result is perhaps a poem that attempts to stand a little indeterminately in the middle of that rather worn out rope bridge which dangles, precariously, between science and religion. This, I think is quite reflective of our modern world in which these two viewpoints on our universe seem to be constantly chasing at one another’s heels, and though I don’t claim to have found any answers by writing the poem. I feel I have probably have followed the age old practice that runs through much of the art created in our time on this planet- the practice of reiterating the question!”

Soul weight

In micro chips and memory cards hides no secret life
nor any life at all,
for one cannot imagine weathered leather hands like hers
slipping over touch screens or keys
to type one last message to the world,
Hers was a realm of paper,
inviting blank pulp waiting for hands to form
with mud, blood and ink
what took God six days.

In cold ceramic pots and uniform drawers hides no secret life,
nor any life at all,
for one cannot imagine scientists measuring a body like hers,
a body so like before
before dancing strip lights,
sleepless nurses and
one telephone call
Now her soul has become science,
one single gram,
and laboratories bright temples,
and me religious,
me religious while I can.

Theo Simmons (Ch, 4th form)

back to top