Andrew Motion and the poetry of war

Andrew Motion_Credit University of Leeds

Andrew Motion © University of Leeds

How can we make sense of human atrocities? Often only through art in one form or another, and even then barely at all. But at least by reconstituting through paint, clay or words, we can ensure it is considered anew.

This May, former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion will share his specially created work, reflecting on the 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Look at it this way. From the observation plane flying high
over the city with sunlight rippling along its silver belly
there is a clear view of offices and schools and factories
and wood-frame houses all with roofs of the same dark tiles
Extract from A Tile from Hiroshima by Sir Andrew Motion, 2015

The one-off, intimate performance will take place at IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums, on Thursday 14 May at 7.30pm, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and as part of Museums at Night 2015.

The new poem, inspired by objects and stories in IWM’s collections, will form the culmination of the A Conversation with Sir Andrew Motion event, in which he’ll discuss new and past works on the subject with Dame Jennie Murray OBE, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour since 1987 and formerly BBC TV’s Newsnight.

The Museums at Night event will also include a screening of An All-Encompassing Light – winner at the IWM Short Film Festival – in which Lee Jong Keun, a long-time resident of Hiroshima, tells his story, a story he kept secret for decades, in order to remember friends and family, and to reveal the lingering effects of the bombing.

Motion’s new poem will be subsequently installed as a sound recording within IWM North’s Main Exhibition Space to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombings. It will be displayed alongside the objects that inspired the piece, including roof tiles recovered from Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the explosions.

It promises to be a thought-provoking and moving evening.  Tickets to In Conversation With Sir Andrew Motion cost £6 and are on sale from or from the Admissions Desk at IWM North.

For further details, visit You can connect with @IWMNorth on Twitter and