About this poet

Simon Armitage was born on May 26, 1963 in the village of Marsden, in West Yorkshire, England. He received an undergraduate degree from Portsmouth University in geography, followed by a master's degree in social work from Manchester University where he researched the impact of television violence on young offenders. Before he began to write full-time, Armitage worked as probation officer in Greater Manchester for six years.

Armitage is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently: The Shout: Selected Poems (Harcourt, 2005), which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as a translation of the middle English classic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (W.W. Norton, 2007), and Homer's Odyssey (2006), a retelling of the ancient Greek epic by Homer.

His earlier volumes include Xanadu (1992), Kid (1992), Book of Matches (1993), The Dead Sea Poems (1995), CloudCuckooLand (1997), Killing Time (1999), Travelling Songs (2002), The Universal Home Doctor (2002), and Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (2006).

Widely considered an inheritor of Philip Larkin's dark wit, Armitage has become one of England's most respected poets. A reviewer for the Sunday Times in England wrote: "Armitage creates a muscular but elegant language of his own out of slangy, youthful, up-to-the-minute jargon and the vernacular of his native Northern England. He combines this with an easily worn erudition...and the benefit on unblinkered experience...to produce poems of moving originality."

 

Armitage is the recipient of numerous awards for poetry, including the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, and a Lannan Award. Several of his collections have been short-listed for the Whitbread Poetry Prize, and his first book, Zoom! (1989), was a Poetry Society Book Choice.

He is the author of two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as the memoir All Points North (1998), a Yorkshire Post Book of the Year. Armitage also writes widely for radio, television, film, and theater. His recent work includes a libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2006, and the play Mister Heracles, a version of the Euripides play, The Madness of Heracles.

Frequently blending genres, his film Xanadu (1992) was described as "a poem film for television," and appeared on BBC television during their "Words on Film" series. He also authored a film about Weldon Kees, and co-wrote Moon Country with Glyn Maxwell, which retraced the 1936 trip to Iceland taken by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice.

Armitage is the co-editor, with Robert Crawford, of The Penguin Anthology of Poetry from Britain and Ireland Since 1945, and also edited Short and Sweet – 101 Very Short Poems, as well as a selection of poetry by Ted Hughes.

He has taught at the University of Leeds and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is currently a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in West Yorkshire.

At Sea

Simon Armitage, 1963
It is not through weeping,
but all evening the pale blue eye
on your most photogenic side has kept
its own unfathomable tide. Like the boy
at the dyke I have been there:

held out a huge finger, 
lifted atoms of dust with the point
of a tissue and imagined slivers of hair
in the oil on the cornea. We are both
in the dark, but I go on

drawing the eyelid up by its lashes
folding it almost inside-out, then finding
and hiding every mirror in the house
as the iris, besieged with the ink
of blood rolls back

into its own orbit. Nothing
will help it. Through until dawn
you dream the true story of the boy
who hooked out his eye and ate it, 
so by six in the morning

I am steadying the ointment
that will bite like an onion, piping
a line of cream while avoiding the pupil 
and in no time it is glued shut
like a bad mussel.

Friends call round
and mean well. They wait
and whisper in the air-lock of the lobby
with patches, eyewash, the truth
about mascara.

Even the cats are on to it; 
they bring in starlings, and because their feathers
are the colours of oil on water in sunlight
they are a sign of something.
In the long hours

beyond us, irritations heal
into arguments. For the eighteenth time
it comes to this: the length of your leg sliding out
from the covers, the ball of your foot
like a fist on the carpet

while downstairs
I cannot bring myself to hear it.
Words have been spoken; things that were bottled
have burst open and to walk in now
would be to walk in

on the ocean.

From The Shout by Simon Armitage, copyright © Simon Armitage, 2005. Used by permission of the author.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in the village of Marsden, in

by this poet

poem
Which reminds me. He appeared
at noon, asking for water. He’d walked from town
after losing his job, leaving me a note for his wife and his brother
and locking his dog in the coal bunker.
We made him a bed

and he slept till Monday.
A week went by and he hung up his coat.
Then a month, and not a stroke of work,