What If ...?

The poem 'What If ... ' by Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate, can be seen on the side of the Sheffield Hallam University building. How refreshing to see the written word on a building without any advertising or images. The poem dominates the cityscape and can be read from the nearby station. It must have been seen by thousands of people. By students with their 'What If...?' dreams and older people reflecting on their lives, 'What if...?'

When I read poem last weekend it got me thinking that our futures are unwritten no matter what our age. And no matter what stage you are at in your life you can still look ahead and dream.

Do you spend too much time reflecting on the past? The past is written - it's what we do today and tomorrow that's more important.

Here's the poem that appears on the side of the building:

O travellers from 

somewhere else to here.
Rising from Sheffield Station 
and Sheaf Square
To wander through the 
labyrinths of air.

Pause now, and let 

the sight of this sheer cliff
Become a priming-place which lifts you off
To speculate
What if..?
What if..?
What if..?

Cloud shadows drag 

their hands across 
the white;
Rain prints the sudden darkness of its weight;
Sun falls and leaves 
the bleaching evidence of light.

Your thoughts are like 

this too: as fixed as words
Set down to decorate
a blank facade
And yet, as words are too, 
all soon transferred

To greet and understand 

what lies ahead -
The city where your dreamling is re-paid,
The lives which wait 
unseen as yet, unread.

◊ ◊ 

Andrew Motion broke the mould of Poet Laureate by stipulating that he would only hold the position for a period of ten years rather than the expected lifetime. His aim was to use clear language and to write about ordinary lives. For example, he wrote about homelessness for the Salvation Army and about bullying for Childline. He also wrote a poem 'Regime' in protest of the invasion of Iraq.

Did you enjoy this poem?
What are you going to make time for this weekend? Please share.

Have a gorgeous Friday xo



  1. Even though I mainly (try to) concentrate on the present, it is always wonderful to have the possibility of dreaming ahead.
    And even if we put past/present/future aside, it is still wonderful to play with “What if...?”
    So I loved that you said: “no matter what stage you are at in your life you can still look ahead and dream” :)

  2. I agree the idea of dreaming is good for all of us and a way of keeping a young and positive approach to life x


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