The Poet Who Stares At Sheep

04/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

England's Arts Council apparently thinks sheep are good for more than just wool and...well...counting. They awarded a 2000£ grant (about $3,200) to a writer who is using the animals to create poems and demonstrate scientific principles.

The recipient, Valerie Laws, explained her project to the BBC:

"Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics which a lot of people find hard to understand, as it seems to go against common sense.

That's true.

Randomness and uncertainty is at the centre of how the universe is put together, and is quite difficult for us as humans who rely on order.


So I decided to explore randomness and some of the principles of quantum mechanics, through poetry, using the medium of sheep."

What the *&^#?

Laws went into a little more detail about the project. Her exploration of the principles of quantum mechanics consisted of painting words on the backs of sheep, then waiting for the sheep to roam around and randomly create "poems."

How did the wooly Wordsworths do? Here's one of the best:

Warm drift, graze gentle, White below the sky, Soft sheep, mirrors, Snow clouds.

That reads like a poem created by sheep wandering around with words on their backs (and, yes, one of the words Laws spray painted on a sheep was apparently "sheep").

The BBC ran a photo of the experiment in progress. It shows Laws, wearing a bad ski-outfit and a pair of sh*t-kickers, standing in the mud watching her subjects mill around in what I could only describe as a big, sheepy clusterf*ck.

A spokesman for The Arts Council defended the grant, calling the project "an exciting fusion of poetry and quantum physics". He also called the pet rock an exciting fusion of geology and domestication.

The project is at least having some impact on the world. The sheep owner (a local farmer) told the BBC, "After last year's devastation (of foot-and-mouth) we all needed cheering up and this might just do it." At least until everyone finds out what Mrs. Laws was getting paid for it.

Hey, these are hard economic times. So if you need some extra cash and have access to livestock and a very, very basic understanding of scientific principles...I'm just saying.