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Simon Armitage

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English Literature

Simon Armitage has been the UK's Poet Laureate since 2019. Author of poetry collections such as Zoom! (1989) and Kid (1992), he is also known for his translations of epic poems such as Homer's Odessey (2006) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007).

Who is Simon Armitage?

Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Marsden, West Yorkshire. Armitage's father was known locally as a playwright and also worked as a probation officer, two professions Simon himself would turn his hand to.

Armitage attended the University of Portsmouth, where he studied Geography, before completing a postgraduate degree at the University of Manchester. His Master's thesis discussed the effects of violent television on young offenders.

Armitage's Career

After university, Armitage spent six years working as a probation officer in the Greater Manchester area, until 1994. He chose this profession after failing to find work related to his degree. During this time he published three collections of poetry, Human Geography (1988), Zoom! (1989) and Kid (1992). These collections were partially inspired by Armitage's own experiences as a probation officer, which can be seen in the themes of conflict and violence in the collections.

Following the success of Kid, Armitage quit his job as a probation officer to pursue poetry full-time. He had previously worked as a lecturer at Leeds University, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of Iowa. In 2011 he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield and in 2017 he gained the same position at Leeds University.

Armitage has also created programmes for Radio 3 and 4 on topics such as history and literature. He has presented television documentaries since 1992 including The Pendle Witch Child (2011), The Culture Show (2014) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2009).

Armitage lives in Melham, Yorkshire with his wife and daughter. For his prose collection 'Walking Away', he walked 250 miles from Minehead to Land's End.

What awards and accolades has Simon Armitage received?

Simon Armitage was appointed as the Millennium Poet in 1999. In 2010 he was awarded a CBE for services to poetry.

During 2012, Armitage was the Artist in Residence at London's Southbank, where he created the Poetry Parnassus, a gathering of poets from every Olympic nation. This event is seen as the biggest assemblage of international poets in history.

In 2019, Armitage was appointed as the UK's Poet Laureate. Succeeding Carol Ann Duffy, he will remain in this role until 2029.

What are some of Simon Armitage's poems?

'Kid' (1992)

'Kid' is the titular poem of Armitage's 1992 poetry collection. The poem discusses themes of family and coming of age.

"Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!

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."

Armitage's poem 'Kid' plays on the image of Batman and Robin to tell a story of a young person stepping out of the shadow of a role model. The pop-culture figures are used to explore the idea of being a 'sidekick' to someone else. The poem references different regions of England to show how the speaker is trying to find his voice.

Hint: To figure out the rhyme scheme of this poem, try singing it to the Batman theme song!

'Poem' (1992)

Simon Armitage's 'Poem', appears in his 1992 collection Kid. It features themes of family and conflict.

"And for his mum he hired a private nurse.

And every Sunday taxied her to church.

And he blubbed when she went from bad to worse.

And twice he lifted ten quid from her purse.

Here's how they rated him when they looked back:

sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that."

This poem is written in the form of an elegy as it describes what an unnamed dead man did during his life. The poem uses anaphora and end stop lines to create the non-committal tone, which the speaker uses as he relays the man's actions. This poem discusses themes of family, conflict, and how morally complex people can be.

'Homecoming' (1989)

'Homecoming' first appeared in Armitage's collection Zoom! And also deals with themes of family and conflict. The title of the poem plays on the idea of a teenager returning home.

"These ribs are pleats or seams. These arms are sleeves.

These fingertips are buttons, or these hands can fold

into a clasp, or else these fingers make a zip

or buckle, you say which.

Step backwards into it

and try the same canary-yellow cotton jacket, there,

like this, for size again. It still fits."

Armitage's poem discusses the relationship between a teenager and their parents. This relationship is explored through metaphor and symbolism, such as the coat at the centre of the poem. This piece uses the duality of a trust exercise and a coat to explore themes of familial tensions, conflict, and growing up.

'Remains' (2008)

This poem was written for Armitage's 2008 collection, The Not Dead, which compiled poems based on the testimonials of soldiers. This poem discusses themes of violence and the after-effects of conflict.

"End of story, except not really.

His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol

I walk right over it week after week.

Then I'm home on leave. But I blink"

Armitage’s poem focuses on a soldier who has been involved in the killing of a robber in the Middle East. The speaker is dealing with how this trauma is affecting him on duty and also when he returns home. This tells the story of how a soldier is only a cog in a machine, fighting a war they are actually helpless to stop. The poem mixes vivid imagery of violence with a conversational tone to create a depiction of guilt and trauma following a violent incident.

Key Themes in Armitage's poems

Here are some of the themes of Armitage's poetry:

Violence

Armitage spent six years working as a probation officer in Manchester, and this experience had a great effect on his work. In this role, Armitage was exposed to violence on a daily basis, and this is reflected in his poetry. Armitage has said that the violence of 1980s Thatcherite Britain had a significant effect on his poetry and how he presented violence (for example, in 'The Big Issue'). The violence that is present in Armitage’s work is never at the forefront of the poem; instead, it is subtly used to make further points about themes such as familial tension and trauma.

Examples

"His blood-shadow stays on the street," - ‘Remains’

"I let him have it... six times with the krooklock" - ‘Hitcher’

"And once, for laughing, punched her in the face" - ‘Poem'

Regional Life

Regional dialects and colloquial language feature heavily in these poems. Aside from his years at university, Armitage has lived his whole life in Yorkshire, which has influenced his poetry. Many of Armitage’s poems feature a Yorkshire dialect, which helps to reflect regional life in the North of England.

"now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder" - ‘Kid’

"We went out / into the school yard together, me and the boy" ‘The Shout’

Study Tip: To see this theme more clearly - try reading some of these poems in a Yorkshire accent!

Family

Many of Armitage’s poems discuss themes of families and familial tension. This is seen especially in his third collection, Kid, which deals with the theme of coming of age and the tension this can create in a family. Armitage uses experiences from his own school days as well as other outside influences to explore families in his poetry. This can range from coming of age stories to darker stories of violent tension within the familial unit.

"I'm not playing ball boy any longer / Batman," - ‘Kid’

"Back home / the very model of a mother, yours" - ‘Homecoming’

"And for his mum he hired a private nurse." - ‘Poem’

Simon Armitage (1963-Present) - Key takeaways

    • Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Yorkshire.

    • He was a probation officer in Greater Manchester.

    • He is the current Poet Laureate of the U.K (2019-2029).

    • His most well-known poems include 'Kid', 'Homecoming', 'Poem', and 'Remains'.

    • The themes of his poetry include violence, conflict, regional life, and families.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage's poem, 'Remains' was written in 2008.

Simon Armitage is a poet, playwright and novelist from Yorkshire, England. In 2019 he was announced as the U.K.'s Poet Laureate.

Simon Armitage lives in West Yorkshire in the U.K. 

Simon Armitage is famous for his work as a poet, playwright and novelist. He has appeared in several television programmes and radio shows. In 2019 he was appointed to the position of Poet Laureate of the U.K.

Simon Armitage's most famous poems include, 'Remains', 'Kid', 'Poem' and 'Homecoming'.



Final Simon Armitage Quiz

Question

When was Simon Armitage born?

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Answer

1889

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Where was Simon Armitage born?

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West Yorkshire

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What career did Armitage's father have?

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Answer

Simon Armitage's father was a probation officer.

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Where did Armitage first attend university?

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 Armitage first attended Portsmouth University for his undergraduate degree. 

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What did Armitage's Masters' thesis focus on?

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Armitage's Masters' thesis focused on the effect that television violence has on young offenders.

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What job did Armitage have after graduating?

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Answer

Simon Armitage took on a job as a probation officer

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In what city did Armitage work as a probation officer?

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Answer

Derry

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When Armitage quit his job in 1994, how many poetry collections had he released? 

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3

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True or False - in 1999 Armitage was awarded the role of Millennium Poet.

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True! In 1999 Simon Armitage was appointed as the Millennium Poet. 

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 Who was Poet Laureate before Simon Armitage?

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W.H. Auden

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The poem 'Kid' features which comic book duo?

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Answer

Batman and Robin 

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What collection of poetry does 'Kid' feature in?

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The poem 'Kid' is the titular piece of the 1992 collection, Kid!

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True or False - 'Poem' frequently uses anaphora 

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True! The poem frequently uses anaphora throughout.

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What tone appears in 'Poem'?


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Frightened

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 The title of 'Homecoming' is a play on what image?

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The title is based on the image of a teenager returning home after an argument.

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Who is there tension between in 'Homecoming'?

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The tension in 'Homecoming' is between a teenager and his parents.

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What is the poem 'Remains' based on?

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The poem 'Remains' is based on a testimonial of a soldier.

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'Remains' explores which theme?

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The trauma of violence and conflict 

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True or False - Simon Armitage now lives in Belfast.

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True! Simon Armitage lives in Belfast. 

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Does Armitage explore the theme of violence in his poetry?

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Yes! Simon Armitage does explore the theme of violence in his poetry.

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When did Simon Armitage write 'Kid'?

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1992

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What is the form of 'Kid'?

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Dramatic monologue

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What is the meter of 'Kid'?

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Iambic Pentameter

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Define iambic pentameter.

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A line of poetry which consists of five iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable). 

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True or false? 'Kid' as a regular rhyme scheme.

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True! 'Kid' follows an AAAA rhyme scheme.

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What is the key theme of kid?

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Change

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What honorary position has Simon Armitage held since 2019?

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The Poet Laureate.

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Why did Simon Armitage write 'Kid'?

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In response to Timon Burton's Batman (1989) not including the character of Robin. 

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True or false? The title of 'Kid' has a clear meaning.

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False! The title is ambiguous and could have multiple meanings.

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How many sentences make up the poem 'Kid'?

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Five

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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'

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Enjambment

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What is a plosive?

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An oral sound produced by closing your lips and releasing a sudden burst of breath. For instance; t, b or p. 

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Give an example of plosives being used in 'Kid'?

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Answer

'Batman, big shot'

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What technique is used here;

'In the gutter… well I turned around the corner.'

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Ellipsis 

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True or false? Armitage uses euphemistic language in 'Kid'.

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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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When did Simon Armitage write 'Homecoming'?

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1993

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What is the form of 'Homecoming'?

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Free-verse

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What is the rhyme scheme of 'Homecoming'?

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No set rhyme scheme

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True or false? The title of 'Homecoming' relates to the poem's storyline.

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True! The title of 'Homecoming' provides us with an insight into the story line of the poem, which ends with a teenager returning home after an argument.

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What is a cyclical narrative?

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A narrative which ends at the same place it began. 

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Why does 'Homecoming' have a cyclical narrative?

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Because the poem opens and closes with the metaphor of a trust fall.

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How many stanzas are there in 'Homecoming'?

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Answer

Four

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Question

Which of these techniques is not used in 'Homecoming'?

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Answer

Iambic pentameter.

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Which technique is 

"The second, one canary-yellow cotton jacket 

on a cloakroom floor, uncoupled from its hook," 

an example of?

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Enjambment

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What is caesura?

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When punctuation breaks up a line in a poem. 

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True or false? Caesura is used in the second stanza of 'Homecoming'.

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True! For instance "and points the finger. Temper, temper."

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What extended metaphor is present in 'Homecoming'?

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The canary-yellow jacket as a metaphor for the parent's love.

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What is the tone of 'Homecoming'?

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Perceptive.

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What is the dominant theme in 'Homecoming'?

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Family conflict.

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Which of these is not a semantic field used in 'Homecoming'?

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Nature

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