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Ever wondered about the thoughts that go through the heads of superheroes? Well, look no further! In his 1992 poem, 'Kid', Simon Armitage explores the inner monologue of Robin after Batman ditches him.
|Enjambment PlosivesEllipsisEuphemistic Language|
Frequently noted imagery
|'Kid' is a dramatic monologue from the perspective of Robin after Batman ditches him. The monologue follows Robin's journey as he becomes 'stronger' and 'older'.|
Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet and writer. His poem 'Kid' (1992) won a Forward Poetry Prize, and the following year Armitage was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. In 2019 he was appointed Poet Laureate.
Forward Poetry Prize: A British poetry award founded in 1992 by William Seighart.
Poet Laureate: A poet appointed to an honorary position by the monarch on advice from the Prime Minister. The Poet Laureate is expected to write poetry for important national occasions and events. The first poet Laureate was Ben Jonson, who was appointed in 1616 by James I.
Armitage was born in 1963 in Huddersfield and grew up in the village of Marsden. He studied at Colne Valley Highschool in West Yorkshire, before graduating with a BA in Geography from Portsmouth Polytechnic. Armitage went on to study at the University of Manchester, where he wrote his Master's thesis on the effects of television violence on young offenders.
After graduating, Armitage trained as a probation officer. He published his first poetry collection titled Zoom! in 1989; however, he continued to work as a probation officer until 1994. In addition to poetry, Armitage has written novels including Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), and stage plays such as The Last Days of Troy which premiered at Shakespeare's Globe theatre in June 2014.
Alongside his work as a probation officer and writer, Armitage has also written and presented radio and TV documentaries; for instance, the 2011 BBC Four Documentary 'The Pendle Witch Child'.
Did you know? The first poem Armitage wrote was part of homework he was assigned at age ten.
Literary context: Why did Simon Armitage write Kid (1992)?
Armitage wrote Kid in response to Timon Burton's Batman (1989) which didn't include the character of Robin. The poem's narrative is meant to be Robin's response to being excluded from the story.
Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter ... well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that 'he was like a father
to me' rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that 'he was like an elder brother'
story, let the cat out on that caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy roll-me-over-in the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.
The simple, monosyllabic title of 'Kid' is fairly ambiguous. While the noun 'Kid' has connotations of youth and childishness, the title could have multiple meanings.
Monosyllabic: One syllable.
Connotations: Associations of a word or phrase.
The title could be reflective of Robin's frustration that Batman has given him the 'order to grow up' in the poem. He's tired of being viewed as a 'Kid' and Batman's side-kick who he can just ditch, so Robin has gone against how the audience of Batman perceives him, by becoming 'taller, harder, stronger'.
Alternatively, the title 'Kid' could be referring to the audience of the Batman Comics and 1966-68 TV show and beyond, superheroes hold a certain level of nostalgia for many, making them remember when they were a 'kid'.
Either way, the title's associations with youth indicate that the poem may contain themes of age, which we see in the coming-of-age narrative of the poem.
Why do you think Armitage titled this poem 'Kid'?
'Kid' takes the form of a dramatic monologue spoken from the perspective of Robin, Batman's sidekick. The poem is made up of one single stanza of twenty-four lines.
Dramatic monologue: a form of poetry in which the narrator describes a situation.
The poem consists of just five sentences across its twenty-four lines. These lengthy sentences mean enjambment is present throughout the majority of the poem, allowing the poem to flow freely across lines.
However, there is a regular rhyme scheme, with each line ending with an 'er' sound. Alongside Armitage's use of regular rhyme, the poem has a consistent meter, as it is written in iambic pentameter. This use of regular rhyme and iambic pentameter creates a lyrical rhythm, similar to that of Neal Hefti's 'Batman Theme' from the 1966-1968 Batman TV-Series.
Enjambment: When a sentence continues from one line of a poem onto the next line.
Regular rhyme scheme: a rhyme scheme that follows a regular pattern of rhyming words.
Iambic pentameter: A line of poetry that consists of five iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable).
Enjambment is present throughout the poem. Across twenty-four lines there are only five sentences. This use of enjambment allows the poem to move at a rapid yet fragmented pace. This pace could parallel the way in which we read comic books, they have limited text with short descriptions accompanied by images and speech, allowing the reader to quickly consume the story. Additionally, by fragmenting the poem's rhythm, the enjambment contributes to the poem's bitter tone, for instance;
Now I’ve scotched that “he was like a father
to me” rumour sacked it, blown the cover
on that “he was like an elder brother” story
The enjambment across these lines fragments the sentences, causing it to appear as if Robin is forcing the words out. The fragmentation indicates to the reader that Robin is frustrated by these stories that Batman was ‘like a father’ or ‘brother’ to him, as he pauses and stumbles while trying to express that these stories were just rumours and not true.
Additionally, the lengthy nature of this sentence (it continues across six lines in total!) causes the poem’s rhythm to move at a fast pace. By not breaking up Robin's statement into individual sentences, Armitage causes Robin's monologue to come across as a rant, as he states issue after issue without pause.
Armitage utilises plosive sounds throughout the poem, adding a blunt aspect to the poem’s earlier tone of bitterness. For instance, in the first line, Robin refers to Batman as ‘Batman, big shot’. The plosive ‘b’ sound creates a harsh, blunt tone, indicating to the reader that Robin may be mocking Batman.
Later, the plosive ‘b’ sound is once again used when Robin declares that he’s not ‘playing ball boy any longer’. Once again, the harshness of the ‘b’ adds a blunt aspect to the poem's already bitter tone, as Robin declares how he’s moved beyond being Batman’s sidekick.
Plosive: An oral sound produced by closing your lips and releasing a sudden burst of breath. For instance; t, b, or p.
Armitage’s use of ellipsis in line six of the poem highlights Robin’s resentment toward Batman;
As you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
In the gutter… well I turned around the corner.
Before the use of ellipsis, Robin opposes Batman’s idea that he encouraged Robin to ‘grow up’, letting him ‘lose to wonder’. The extended pause between Robin’s statement that Batman ‘ditched’ him ‘in the gutter’ and his declaration that he ‘turned around the corner’, highlights how Robin sees this as a triumph over his circumstances. He makes the reader wait to hear what happened after he faced these unfair circumstances, and then proudly announces that he overcame them.
Ellipsis: Three dots that either represent an extended pause, or that something has been omitted from the speech.
In the Batman comics, Robin is referred to as the ‘boy wonder’, a name mentioned at the poem’s conclusion. Armitage uses the homophone of ‘wander’ in the poem's second line to draw a connection between Robin as the 'boy wonder' and his separation from Batman;
Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
The similarities between the pronunciation of ‘wander’ and ‘wonder’ highlight how Robin is moving (or ‘wandering’) away from his role as a ‘boy wonder’.
Homophone: words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings and/or spellings.
From line ten onward, Batman’s affair with a married woman is revealed by Robin. Armitage utilises euphemistic language to build up to the revelation of this affair. For instance;
With the married woman, how you took her
Downtown on expenses in the motor
Here, the enjambment between ‘how you took her’ and ‘downtown’ creates a pause, causing the phrase ‘how you took her’ to hold a more adult meaning - that Batman had sex with this woman.
A comedic twist enters when it is revealed that Batman took the woman downtown in his car. This aspect of comedy in the poem adds a punchy energetic feel to it, similar to that of reading a comic with unexpected twists and sudden moments.
Batman’s affair with this married woman is clearly alluded to in the euphemistic line ‘holy roll-me-over-in-the-clover,’ in line thirteen.
Euphemistic Language: An inoffensive word or phrase used to suggest an offensive word or phrase.
Armitage uses colloquial language, similar to the language Robin used in the Batman comics and TV show;
This line is hard to understand at first. The exclamative at the end of the line creates a punchy, upbeat rhythm. However, in the context of the poem’s bitter tone, it could be argued that the line is sarcastically mocking the way Robin used to speak. By using language similar to the 1966-68 Batman TV show Armitage gives his poem a comic-book feel, with punchy rapid pace language.
If we break down the line, Robin may be referring to coming into an inheritance a ‘nest-egg’. This has come as an unexpected shock (‘shocker!’). ‘Nest-egg’ holds a double meaning in terms of the reference to a ‘robin-redbreast’, which is a type of bird but also Robin’s superhero alter-ego. The ‘nest-egg’ may at first seem to be referencing a literal egg in the nest of a bird, but it more likely is referencing Robin coming into some money.
Colloquial Language: Language used in day-to-day conversation.
In the poem, Armitage makes interesting and engaging language choices; however, he doesn't use figurative language devices such as metaphors or similes. Instead, we see a lot of colloquial and euphemistic language which could be considered an exaggerated version of the language we use in everyday life.
Why do you think this is? Consider the comic-book context of the poem.
The imagery associated with abandonment and isolation is evident toward the beginning of the poem. Armitage's use of the verb 'ditched' alongside the noun 'gutter' and 'shadow' creates the sense of Robin feeling secondary to Batman and abandoned by him. This imagery indicates that Robin holds a level of resentment toward Batman. The cruel and harsh connotations of 'ditched' and 'gutter', cause the reader to perceive Batman in a negative light, as someone who abandoned rather than supported Robin.
Abandonment is further explored in how Robin brushes off the rumours that Batman 'was like a father' and 'an elder brother' to him. By rejecting these claims as rumours and stories, Robin presents Batman as the opposite of a father and brother. Instead of being associated with figures who provide support and care, Batman comes across as distant and unavailable.
Toward the poem's close, imagery related to struggle is used to present Batman;
Chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
Next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
Punching the palm of your hand all winter
The image of Batman left 'stewing' suggests he is thinking over something excessively, perhaps trying to come to terms with Robin leaving. The following focus on Batman's culinary skills implies a level of inability without Robin.
A meal of 'chicken giblets in the pressure cooker' is unappealing and Batman has 'next to nothing in the walk-in larder'. The imagery of this meal contributes to the idea that Batman is struggling without Robin. He's lacking in ingredients in his 'walk-in larder', just as he is now lacking in a sidekick.
The line 'punching the palm of your hand all winter' encapsulates this image of struggle. In the 1966-68 Batman TV show, Batman would punch his hand whenever he had an idea. Now Batman is 'punching the palm of' his hand 'all winter'. The noun 'winter' evokes images of bleakness and emptiness, implying that Batman is struggling to come up with new ideas.
The poem has a bitter yet triumphant tone. Robin's bitter resentment toward Batman is evident in the first lines of the poem as he describes how Batman 'gave the order / to grow up'. The verb 'ditched' and noun 'gutter', in reference to this order from Batman, both have the harsh plosive 't' sound, creating a bitter tone. This tone is further built upon by Robin's claims that the claims that Batman was 'like a father' and 'like an elder brother' to him were rumours and stories.
However, the bitter tone turns triumphant towards the poem's conclusion. Robin reveals he is now 'taller, harder, stronger, older'. This use of litany creates a tone of triumph as Robin confidently states his achievements. He may be bitter about his earlier rejection.
Litany: The listing of words or phrases.
The theme of change is present throughout the poem, as Robin, the narrator, tells the reader how he's grown after leaving Batman. This is particularly evident in Robin's declaration that he has become 'taller, harder, stronger, older'.
The idea of change is also evident in lines fifteen to seventeen, as Robin describes the change in his attire after leaving Batman;
Batman, now that I’ve doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest green and scarlet number
For a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper
The verb 'doffed' is the opposite of 'donned', highlighting how Robin no longer wears his superhero suit, instead he now wears 'a pair of jeans and a crew-neck jumper'. This simplistic outfit stands in contrast to his 'Sherwood-Forest green and scarlet number', underpinning the change Robin has experienced.
'Kid' is about the character of Robin from the Batman comic books reacting to Batman ditching him as a side-kick.
Armitage wrote Kid in response to Timon Burton's Batman (1989) which didn't include the character of Robin. The poem's narrative is meant to be Robin's response to not being included in Batman's story.
The poem has a bitter tone with moments of triumph, as Robin rants about how Batman wronged him and how he has grown from it.
Robin from the Batman comics
The main theme of the poem 'Kid' is change.
When did Simon Armitage write 'Kid'?
What is the form of 'Kid'?
What is the meter of 'Kid'?
Define iambic pentameter.
A line of poetry which consists of five iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable).
True or false? 'Kid' as a regular rhyme scheme.
True! 'Kid' follows an AAAA rhyme scheme.
What is the key theme of kid?
What honorary position has Simon Armitage held since 2019?
The Poet Laureate.
Why did Simon Armitage write 'Kid'?
In response to Timon Burton's Batman (1989) not including the character of Robin.
True or false? The title of 'Kid' has a clear meaning.
False! The title is ambiguous and could have multiple meanings.
How many sentences make up the poem 'Kid'?
What technique is used here;
'Now I’ve scotched that “he was like a father
to me” rumour sacked it, blown the cover
on that “he was like an elder brother” story'
What is a plosive?
An oral sound produced by closing your lips and releasing a sudden burst of breath. For instance; t, b or p.
Give an example of plosives being used in 'Kid'?
'Batman, big shot'
What technique is used here;
'In the gutter… well I turned around the corner.'
True or false? Armitage uses euphemistic language in 'Kid'.
True! From line ten onward, Batman’s affair with a married woman is revealed by Robin. Armitage utilises euphemistic language to build up to the revelation of this affair.
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