|Born||26 May 1963
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England
|Occupation||Poet / Playwright / Novelist|
Simon Armitage (born 26 May 1963, Huddersfield) is a British poet, playwright, and novelist. Before finding success with his poetry he worked as a probation officer and a supermarket shelf stacker. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including The Sunday Times Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, a Lannan Award, and an Ivor Novello Award for his song lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings. In 2000, he was made the UK's official Millennium Poet. During this time he wrote the poem "Killing Time", centred on news events of the previous year, running to over a thousand lines. He was one of the judges for the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize and in 2006 was one of the judges for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. His writing is characterised by a dry, native Yorkshire wit combined with "an accessible, realist style and critical seriousness." 
Armitage first studied at Colne Valley High School, Linthwaite, Huddersfield, UK. He then went on to study geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic, UK, before lecturing on creative writing at both the University of Leeds, UK and at the University of Iowa, USA, writers' workshop. He is currently a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom.
Armitage has published several volumes of poetry, including Book of Matches (1993) and The Dead Sea Poems (1995). He has written two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as All Points North (1998), a collection of essays on the north of England. He produced a dramatised version of Homer's Odyssey and a collection of poetry entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize), both of which were published in July 2006.
Armitage also writes for radio, television, film and stage. He is the author of four stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of Euripides' The Madness of Heracles. He was commissioned in 2004 by the National Theatre in London to write Eclipse for the Connections series, a play based on the disappearance of a girl in Hebden Bridge at the time of the 1999 solar eclipse in Cornwall. Most recently he wrote the libretto for an opera scored by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae, The Assassin Tree, based on a Greek myth recounted in The Golden Bough. The opera premiered at the 2006 Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland on 25 August, before moving to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 6 September. Saturday Night (Century Films, BBC2, 1996) - wrote and narrated a fifty minute poetic commentary to a documentary about night-life in Leeds. Directed by Brian Hill.
Many of Armitage's poems now appear in the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) GCSE syllabus for English Literature in the United Kingdom. Some of these include: "Homecoming", "November", "Kid", "Hitcher", and a selection of poems from Book of Matches, most notably of these "Mother any distance...".
Armitage is featured in numerous anthologies including:
"it says NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS
but it don't say why."
"My party piece:
I strike, then from the moment when the matchstick
conjures up its light, to when the brightness moves
beyond its means, and dies, I say the story
of my life"
"All land lines are down.
Reports of mobile phones
are false. One half-excoriated Apple Mac still quotes the Dow Jones."
"We walk to the ward from the badly parked car
with your grandma taking four short steps to our two.
We have brought her here to die and we know it."
"Where does the hand become the wrist?
where does the neck become the shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over that
between something and nothing, between
one and the other."
"Here's how they rated him when the looked back:
sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that."
"I've made out a will: I'm leaving myself
to the National Health. I'm sure they can use
the jellies and tubes and syrups and glues..."
"Ignite the flares, connect the phones, wind all the
the sun goes rusty like a medal in its box -
collect it from the loft. Peg out the stars,
replace the bulbs of Jupiter and Mars.
A man like that takes something with him when he dies,
but he has wept the coins that rested on his eyes,
eased out the stopper from the mouthpiece of the cave,
exhumed his own white body from the grave."
"Mother, any distance greater than a single span
requires a second pair of hands."
"That heart had been an apple once, they reckoned. Green.
They had a scheme to plant an apple there again
beginning with a pip, but he rejected it."
"Right here you made an angel of yourself,
free-falling backwards into last night's snow,
indenting a straight, neat, crucified shape,
then flapping your arms, one stroke, a great bird,
to leave the impression of wings. It worked."
"Think, two things on their own and both at once."
"In a life, most of us turn no more than 45 degrees. Not
compared to those who turn full-circle in the slighest breeze
or those who totally uncoil, but enough in the end
to tell a bag of diamonds from a sack of coal."
"Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you."
"Lifetimes went past. With the critical mass
of hardly more than the thought of a thought
I kept on, headlong, to vanishing point.
I looked for an end, for some dimension
to hold hard and resist. But I still exist."
"I'm still young enough to think that death is something that
happens to other people."
"People can't put on an opera, but they can write a poem. It's
"The ordinary can be absolutely miraculous."
"Poets, I dare you to choose, for one night, the ambrosia over
"Anyway, it's liberating when you get to a point in a poem where
you can legitimately deviate from the form, and I like the tension
that can exist between expectation and execution. Like there's
something a little more idiosyncratic or individual going
[On an inspirational teacher:] "I wrote about how my mum put sixpence in the Christmas pudding - which wasn't true - and he didn't put it on the wall. I thought he'd rumbled me, but he came up to me later and put his arm round me and said 'By the way, Simon, that was a really good poem', and I thought, 'Well, why didn't you put it on the fucking wall, then?' And I've wondered since then if I've just been pursuing a revenge career. Every time I finish a piece I think, 'Put that on your wall!'"