Analysis of the Witty Brit, Simon Armitage
By Jessica Burton
Simon Armitage has a way of writing that flows off the page and through your lips as if you yourself had planned to say it before he wrote it down. At the same time he always pulls out an unexpected ending. It is as if he were in class writing down an assignment at the last minute, using an everyday idea, and then he realizes at the end that he needs to throw in a twist in order for the assignment to have his signature touch. He then proceeds to completely blow away a previous assumption that you had on something quite average and convert it into something of pertinent interest with very few words.
How is such a change possible? Word choice and wit, both of which Simon Armitage is quite skilled with. He uses his British mannerisms throughout his work, which adds a new level to his poetry, and uncommon language. Then he adds the flip. “What Armitage does next is to take off into orbit—there is nowhere else to go,” writes Kate Kelleway in The Guardian. “Michael,” a poem of Armitage’s in his new book Seeing Stars is a good example. “Michael” begins with the theory that what people first steal in their lives is reflective of what they will become. For example, a person whose first theft is a fountain pen as a child became an award-winning author as an adult. At the end of the poem a child is asked what he will be when he grows up, and he replies “an executioner” because the first thing he stole was the life of a fish. And there’s the signature on all of Armitage’s work. It begins in wit and ends in wonder. Armitage seeks out new ways to view ordinary life occurrences. According to Kellaway, “Reading these poems is like being driven at speed, in an unlicensed vehicle, to an unguessable destination.” It is completely unpredictable as to where the poem will end, even if you accept the initial premise, but that is the best part about it.
In our world where we always want the perfect and settling ending, it is nice to be surprised and have a story end with something not yet thought of. Nothing but praise to Simon Armitage then for being so unique in using things in ways that have yet to be seen.
A Closer Look: My Difference by Simon Armitage
By Andrew Hutson
I’ve been writing a lot of poems recently about my difference but my tutor isn’t impressed. He hasn’t said as much, yet it’s clear that as far as he’s concerned my difference doesn’t cut much ice.
Of all the poems in Armitage’s collection Seeing Stars, “My Difference” most directly addresses the question of identity. The poem is about a struggling poet who continually is told that his edge, what he writes about from his experiences, isn’t memorable enough. He calls this edge his difference. I find this to be a fantastic choice of words because the thing we all have in common is that we can all share and write about things unique to each of us, things different than those next to us.
He wants me to dress my difference in tinsel and bells and flashing lights, sit it on a float and drive it through town at the head of the May Day Parade.
Armitage touches on the fact that there is a certain “wow” factor that is expected from writers who write from experience but if a writer dresses up what has shaped him and led him to the point of writing, the writer loses his voice, his sincerity and his identity.
He wants me to lock my difference in a coal cellar until it comes of age then take it outside and reverse over with the ride-on mower, thus making my difference very different indeed, or auction my difference in the global marketplace, or film it getting a “happy slapping” in a busy street, or scream the details of my difference into a rabbit hole of the cosmos hoping to bend the ear of creation itself.
This is one of my favorite lines in this poem for a couple of reasons. It is masterfully written, really showing the chain of thought from Armitage and it really further explores the “wow” factor that might be expected from a writer. But some people aren’t like this and they don’t write about those things because that’s not how they have lived their life; and that leads into the end of the poem, the importance that you must keep your own identity:
And when I plead with him that no matter how small and pitiful my difference might seem to him, to me it makes all the difference in the world, he looks at me with an expression of complete and undisguised and irreversible indifference.
This last line, aside from the great full circle irony at the end, sums up Armitage’s idea of identity in this poem: no matter how uneventful or unexciting your experiences may seem to others, no matter how insignificant your difference may seem to others, it is what has shaped you, made you you. The difference you have from others is what makes you extraordinary and it’s important to never let anybody take that away.