We’re celebrating National Poetry Day with this ode about soil, which we commissioned for the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2018.

Soil: our buried treasure

by Anthony Anaxagorou


How must it feel to be at the bottom of the world,

To be marked and stomped by the galloping herd,

To be neglected and abused for all this time,

What does our thanks look like to you?

You, who birthed the food which fills us,

Stores away the carbon of harm,

You, who give our walk strength, make the entire ground possible,

And yet here we are.

Eroding you, treating you like dirt, pushing you further into an exhausted bruise.

We dump the burden of our cities on your back,

Fill more of our money temples around the beat of your heart,

So perhaps now would be the right time to stop and walk with you, learning more about your ways.

Preserving your wonder,

Hoisting you up from beneath our feet and into our sights,

Celebrating the million ways you work,

Allowing all of human existence to thrive,

The tiny miracles you perform each day and each night,

Like how in a single teaspoon of soil exist more microorganisms than people alive.


The University of Reading commissioned this poem as part of a series of activities on soil science at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2018 . You can find out more about what our scientists got up to at the exhibition in this blog post.

The Soil Security Programme is a UKRI-funded programme led by the University of Reading which has fifteen projects spanning seventeen UK research institutions. Its aim is to fundamentally understand how soil functions and how it adapts to land use and climate change. A key part of the programme is deliver this evidence base at a scale that is useful to both policy and commercial decision makers.