describe Marsden-born Simon Armitage as a West Yorkshire poet is
selling him short. He is one of the country's best-known poets and
his work is known to hundreds of thousands of children because it
has been on the GCSE exam syllabus for several years.
in his early forties, Simon has made the transition from Manchester
probation officer to poetry and the novel, writing extensively for
film, radio and TV along the way. Despite his success he still lives
here in West Yorkshire.
started by asking him about his new novel - the story of Abbie Fenton
who, at the age of 40, is desperate to have a family. Adopted as
a child, she craves a relationship with her real parents as much
as she fears meeting them.
Armitage's latest novel The White Stuff
WHITE STUFF IS SET AT A TIME WHEN INSTITUTIONS LIKE THE CHURCH ARE
NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THEY ONCE WHERE. HOW DOES THIS IDEA AFFECT YOUR
people try and establish their identity through lineage and genes
and I started with a character called Abby and she's got neither
a past or a future. She's adopted and she does not know who her
birth parents were and she's trying to have a child so I start from
a very neutral empty place and then try and work backwards and forwards
NOT PURSUE THE SAME IDEA THROUGH POETRY?
poems I tend to deal with moments or snapshots or just issues as
they come up whereas sometimes an idea comes along and it's quite
obviously too big for a poem. It needs characterisation, it needs
dramatisation. There's a long twisted narrative running through
it and I don't think people want to read those kind of poems. I
don't think they've got the stomach for them so I guess the novel
is the natural place to go with an idea as long-winded as that.
YOU GET A BIGGER AUDIENCE FOR YOUR NOVELS?
the publishers imagine more people are going to read a novel than
a book of poems and I suppose generally that's true. As a poet you
are operating in a relatively small field and when you go into a
big bookshop you realise that your novel counts for nothing. You
can hardly find it. You can walk around and there are just so many
novels, it's a huge territory.
THERE ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR POETRY THAT MAKES IT ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE
WHO COME ACROSS IT AT SCHOOL?
write my poetry with that particular audience in mind. I think you'll
have to ask that question of the examination board. I'm not obscure.
Obscurity is an affliction and I think of poetry as a communication
device, not an elitist form of philosophy so it might be something
to do with that.
YOU EXPLORE THE BIGGER IDEAS DO YOU FEEL YOU MAKE USE OF BIGGER
the trick that I am trying to pull. I am trying not to sacrifice
any intellectual integrity in the poems but I'm trying to write
them in a way in which people can engage with them and read them.