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Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage

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Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry 2010.

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Seeing Stars is a genuine change in direction, while at the same time a distillation and amplification of a voice we’ve come to recognise and admire. These new poems take the form of monologue, parable and shaggy dog story – though, this being Armitage, the dog has been shorn, primped and cosseted into a little horse with a rather aggressive insistence on its equine status. Many of the poems have Armitage’s familiar knack of using English as it’s variously spoken today, but also draw on our contemporary planetarium of celebrities and cultural figures. The collection hangs together convincingly, and this is perhaps largely a result of what’s been learned from his re-tellings of Homer, Euripides and the Gawain poet along the way.

Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 13 May 2010.

Armitage creates world after world, peculiar yet always particular, where the only certainty is the unexpected.


Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage's new collection is by turns a voice and a chorus: a hyper-vivid array of dramatic monologues, allegories, parables and tall tales. Here comes everybody: Snoobie and Carla, Lippincott, Wittmann, Yoshioka, Bambuck, Dr Amsterdam, Preminger. The man whose wife drapes a border-curtain across the middle of the marital home; the English astronaut with a terrestrial outlook on life; an orgiastic cast of unreconstructed pie-worshipers at a Northern sculpture farm; the soap-opera supremacists at their zoo-wedding; the driver who picks up hitchhikers as he hurtles towards a head-on collision with Thatcherism; a Christian cheese-shop proprietor in the wrong part of town; and, the black bear with a dark secret, the woman who curates giant snowballs in the chest freezer. Celebrities and nobodies, all come to the ball. 'I am a sperm whale. I carry up to 2.5 tonnes of an oil-like balm in my huge, coffin shaped head. I have a brain the size of a basketball, and on that basis alone am entitled to my opinions. I am a sperm whale. When I breathe in, the fluid in my head cools to a dense wax and I nosedive into the depths. My song, available on audio cassette and compact disc is a comfort to divorcees, astrologists and those who have 'pitched the quavering canvas tent of their thoughts on the rim of the dark crater' - from The Christening . The storyteller who steps in and out of this human tapestry changes, trickster-style, from poem to poem, but retains some identifying traits: the melancholy of the less deceived, crossed with an undercover idealism. And he shares with many of his characters a star-gazing capacity for belief, or for being 'genuine in his disbelief'. Language is on the loose in these poems, which cut and run across the parterre of poetic decorum with their cartoon-strip energies and air of misrule. Armitage creates world after world, peculiar yet always particular, where the only certainty is the unexpected.

About the Author

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. In 1992 he was winner of one of the first Forward Prizes, and a year later was the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster and playwright, and has written extensively for radio and television. Previous titles include Kid, Book of Matches, The Dead Sea Poems, CloudCuckooLand, Killing Time, The Universal Home Doctor, Homer's Odyssey and Tyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid. His acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was published in 2007.

Author photo © Jonty Wilde

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Book Info

Publication date

1st May 2010


Simon Armitage

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