Simon Armitage

Poet and novelist Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Huddersfield, England. After studying Geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic, he worked with young offenders before gaining a postgraduate qualification in social work at Manchester University. He worked as a probation officer in Oldham until 1994.

His poetry books include Zoom! (1989), Kid (1992), and CloudCuckooLand (1997), which contains the poem 'The Tyre', adapted as a short film in 2000, and 'Eclipse', a short performance piece for young people commissioned by the National Theatre in London. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 1988, was named 'Most Promising Young Poet' at the inaugural Forward Poetry Prize in 1992, won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 1993, and was Poet in Residence for the New Millennium Experience Company in 1999. Mister Heracles (2000), an adaptation of Euripides' Heracles, was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse. His Selected Poems was published in 2001, followed by The Universal Home Doctor (2002) and a new verse adaptation of Homer's epic, Odyssey, in 2006. His stage plays include Mister Heracles and Jerusalem (2005), was also commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Simon Armitage has worked extensively in film, radio and television. He wrote and presented Xanadu (1992), a 'poem film for television', broadcast by BBC television as part of the 'Words on Film' series, and his film about the American poet Weldon Kees was broadcast by the BBC in 1993. He also wrote and narrated Saturday Night, a documentary about Leeds, and Drinking for England, both broadcast by the BBC in 1996 as part of the 'Modern Times' series. Moon Country (1996), written with Glynn Maxwell, retraced a visit to Iceland in 1936 by the poets W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, and was adapted as a six-part series, Second Draft from Saga Land, broadcast by BBC Radio 3. He also wrote the song lyrics for the award-winning Channel 4 film, Feltham Sings, and the libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2006. Out of the Blue (2008) collects three pieces written in response to the anniversaries of three conflicts: a film-poem about 9/11; a piece commissioned by Channel 5 for VE Day and a radio poem on Cambodia 30 years after the rise of the Kmer Rouge.
He is also the author of All Points North (1998), a collection of essays about the north of England and Gig (2008), a memoir of a life of music and poetry. His first novel, Little Green Man (2001), the story of 30-something divorcee Barney and his attempt to relive childhood experiences, explores the darker side of male friendship. His second, The White Stuff (2004), by turns comic and moving, examines issues of childlessness and identity.

Simon Armitage is currently a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004. 2007 saw the publication of his translation, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His latest collection of poetry is The Not Dead (2008). The Poetry of Birds, a collection of poetry he has edited with Tim Dee, is due to be published in late 2009.

Source: Contemporary Writers:

Cliff’s poem The Parting Shot

So five graves, like long evening shadows, are dug,
and the five coffins wait in line, varnished and squared off, and the firing party aims for the distance
and fires, and all are starched and suited and booted and buttoned up.
Then ramrod straight, under the shade of a tree,
the boy-bugler raises a golden horn to his lips,
and calls to his dead friends with his living breath.
And the tune never wavers or breaks, but now tears
roll from his eyes; perfect, as clear as pearls,
tears which fall from his face and bloom on his ironed green shirt like two dark wounds.
Then the world swims and drowns in everyone else’s eyes too.

Laura’s poem The Manhunt

After the first phase,
after passionate nights and intimate days,
only then would he let me trace
the frozen river which ran through his face,
only then would he let me explore
the blown hinge of his lower jaw,
and handle and hold
the damaged, porcelain collar-bone,
and mind and attend the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade,
and finger and thumb the parachute silk of his punctured lung.
Only then could I bind the struts
and climb the rungs of his broken ribs,
and feel the hurt
of his grazed heart.
Skirting along,
only then could I picture the scan,
the foetus of metal beneath his chest
where the bullet had finally come to rest.
Then I widened the search,
traced the scarring back to its source
to a sweating, unexploded mine
buried deep in his mind,
around which every nerve in his body had tightened and closed.
Then, and only then, did I come close.

May the 8th 1945

We were the bulldog British and still alive

with the future as bright as the widening sky

in the V of Churchill's victory sign.
Heat in the heart, a lump in the throat,

hope like the sun 
and all of us giddy and grateful and young

and we'd won, we'd won, we'd bloody well won.

From the book Out of the Blue