Sheffield writer Warda Yassin unveils love poem for city in Orchard Square

Sheffield’s poet laureate has launched a poem celebrating the city at Orchard Square as part of 30th anniversary celebrations for the Off the Shelf festival.

By Julia Armstrong
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 7:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 7:17 pm

Warda Yassin, from Broomhall, read out the poem, called A Sonnet for Sheffield, at the city centre shopping area, where it is on display.

She said: “I was born and raised in this city. This sonnet for Sheffield acknowledges how I see it to be very open – one of the first lines is ‘open-palmed sanctuary’ – so a place of safety, welcome and tenderness of people from all sorts of backgrounds, religions and faiths and anything else.

"There was a line here – ‘her sheaf fringe finds softness and forgirveness in everything’ – so I wanted to acknowledge the natural beauty we have in the city as well but there is a line that says ‘this city is my city’ as well, which encapsulates what I feel, that there is a sense of belonging for people here as well, and that it can be a home away from home.”

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Sheffield poet laureate Warda Yassin with her poem, A Sonnet for Sheffield, at Orchard Square shopping centre - the poem was created as part of the city's Off the Shelf Festival of words 30th anniversary celebrations

Warda said she was very grateful that she’d had the chance to write a love poem to the city where is proud to live. She sees it as a great honour and thanked everyone who was involved.

She agreed it would be strange to walk through Orchard Square and see her work on view, adding: “My mum came to see it today. She said, ‘oh, it’s big!’.”

Surriya Falconer from Orchard Square and Professor Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and culture, partnerships and regional engagement at the University of Sheffield, who sponsor Off the Shelf, introduced Warda before her reading.

Off the Shelf Festival of Words has over the years commissioned poems from leading writers for the Text in The City initiative, bringing poems to public places.

Surriya Falconer, Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Sheffield poet laureate Warda Yassin at the launch of Warda's poem to Sheffield that has gone on display in Orchard Square as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of city words festival Off the Shelf

Warda joins a roll call of well-known literary names from Harold Pinter, to two UK poet laureates, Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion, as well as the recent Scottish Makar (national poet) Jackie Kay, whose work can be seen on and in buildings and structures around the city.

Nicola Blake, asset manager for Orchard Square, said: “The city of Sheffield has experienced so much over these last few years and Orchard Square is also changing for the better. We felt it was only right that we should support and celebrate Off the Shelf in its 30th year and also add to the city’s poetry in public places, so we are delighted that Warda agreed to write the city a sonnet.

“Warda is a hugely talented writer and it is wonderful that her beautiful poem will be there in the centre of Orchard Square for everyone to enjoy.”

Professor Toulmin said: “Text in the City is unique to Off the Shelf and was introduced in the late 1990s. Warda’s poem is such a lovely tribute to Sheffield and being in a public thoroughfare means we can share her sentiments with visitors as well as those who live here.

"What better way to mark three decades of this great festival.”