Sometimes I think that if my second year poetry module at university had included Simon Armitage, I may not have buggered off to start ‘real life’ before the end of the semester. In reality, even if JK Rowling had been a guest lecturer I’d probably have been far too headstrong to stick around, but I don’t half love Simon Armitage.
It was during GCSE English that I first came across him. Aside from the token Cooper Clarke entry in our anthologies (which our class never bloodied studied), his were the only poems that even came close to reflecting the interests and experiences of a sixteen year-old. About His Person was a valuable lesson in subtlety. I Am Very Bothered When I Think… was laugh-out-loud funny without ever relying on the premise of an actual joke. Cataract Operation proved he could paint a genuinely vivid picture with words. After my GCSE was over, I bought a couple of collections of his work, and then never looked at them nearly enough.
Now, Armitage has a new book out, and from what I gather from the broadsheet reviews, it’s less poetry-more memoir. Charting a lifelong love of music and its parallels with performing poetry, it looks bloody excellent. I’m going to buy it today, when I go to Waterstones to see Armitage speak. I’m going to get it signed and everything. Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a book signing before, probably because I’ve spent the last few years running from gig to gig with my notebook, which is almost ironic, since Gig is the name of this new book.
What I am most looking forward to about this evening is the possibility for questions. You may have seen my earlier post about my problems with poetry, and my Regina-Spektor-in-a-box idea. The first two stanzas are written, but they are utter balls, and as a result, I have been mentally addressing my many hurdles with the poetic form. Firstly, I am two explicit. As a (I hope) competant writer of fiction, I find myself establishing a scene and plausible characterisation in poetry, which is not at all what it is about. I work so hard on clever word-play that the whole flow suffers; like damming a river with alliteration. Ultimately though (and partly due to my housemate’s recent acquisition of Guitar Hero for the Wii) I have realised that I have no rhythm. None. I can’t even clap along to a Queen song without becoming a big syncopated mess of flailing. This surely must transfer to my ability to phrase a poetic concept, and later today, I’m going to ask Simon Armitage what he thinks.
Perhaps he’ll suggest joining a salsa band as a form of therapy.