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Automatic for the people: Jackie Kay's robot poem for Milton Keynes

Why is a robot writing poetry in a shopping centre in Milton Keynes? It's all about Jackie Kay finding her birth mother and losing her to dementia

If, as Wordsworth said, poetry is human emotion recollected in tranquillity, what happens when verses are scrawled in sand on the floor of a shopping centre? When they are left unguarded, to be kicked and scuffed by customers wandering into Costa Coffee or New Look?

We'll find out this week, when a robot called Skryf snakes through the Centre MK in Milton Keynes, spelling out lines by Jackie Kay. The extract from her poem Equinox is rich in significance. The inspiration was Kay's birth mother, whose vascular dementia is slowly scuffing away her memory, just as this poem will eventually be lost to the feet, buggies and shopping bags of the public. "Words are disappearing for her," says Kay, standing in Centre MK's atrium, the robot whirring at her side. "She'll look up and say there's a big biscuit in the sky, when it's the moon. As dementia goes on, you speak in a kind of jagged poetry."

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