Just let me drink my bloody coffee in peace, ok? -- Simon Armitage
Just let me drink my bloody coffee in peace, ok? — Simon Armitage

Yes.  Awesome.  Fantastic.

The selection of Simon Armitage as Oxford’s new Professor of Poetry does something special for the world of poetry.

Armitage is a bit of a badass … with an abiding love of English tradition.

He’s found new ways to invigorate old epics (“Gawain and the Green Knight,” “Death of King Arthur”) that’s good for young poets.  He makes that material cool, relevant … hardly the domain of musty old scholars in tweedy jackets writing with a density that defies the lay person’s understanding.

For me, too much of modern poetry is a puzzle.  Some kind of strange insider’s game that makes no sense to anyone except the one who wrote it.

When I want to read current working poets, I turn to Charles Wright, or Michael Odom, or Anne Carson, or Robin Robertson or Carol Ann Duffy … or Armitage.  All of them are steeped in tradition with a capital T.

I loved Armitage’s work while I was at the Times (you can read what I wrote about him there) and still do now. You can also read the Telegraph story (go here to read it) about the “dull old farts” who selected Armitage instead of presumptive winner Wole Soyinka.

If you like either of the RRs, treat yourself to Armitage’s Arthur translation.

So glad, so happy about this news.


  1. Hello, Nick! Good to hear your voice! It’s been a dry spell. Yes, I agree with you. Knowing one’s ancestry informs one’s offspring, so to speak. 😀 Cheers!

  2. Was thinking of you two days ago and wondering how your book is going. Figured you were working. As am I. Hope to be finished by summer’s end. Or thereabouts.
    Thanks for the piece on Armitage. I like his work. And spent some time reading poetry before saying hello, how’s your work, before heading back to the ms. Cheers!
    PS: I’m reading Winter’s Tale at nap time. Nice writing. Hadn’t heard of it before seeing the movie and thinking there was more to the story than the film. Do you know it?

  3. Thanks Janet — I’ve been consumed with my edits. You change one thing, and suddenly you realize everything else shifts because of that change. I’ve learned a lot from the process and I’m close to finishing. Good luck with your work as well. If I can ever be of service, let me know.

    As for your other comments …. Armitage is really something special. I admire his work, especially with old epics. I haven’t’ ready Winter’s Tale, but I’ve read three other Mark Helprin books and he’s an amazing, beautiful writer. His story collection “The Pacific” is something I recommend – especially one of the stories about the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He finds a way to inject poetry into the most unexpected, difficult places. I hope you enjoy Winter’s Tale. Please do post something about it when you’re done — it sounds like a strange alternate reality world, but I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. Take good care and all best!

  4. I love this: “For me, too much of modern poetry is a puzzle. Some kind of strange insider’s game that makes no sense to anyone except the one who wrote it.” There’s a lot of comfort in that for someone like me. I’ll take on new writing willingly, but often (perhaps too often) I end by saying, “Oh, whatever,” and walking away. John Ashbery’s new collection comes to mind. “Breezeway” may be terrific,but as I read I kept thinking, “Is this good poetry? Or is this considered important because Ashbery wrote it?”

    Anyway, I’m glad to know about SImon, whom I haven’t heard of, and on your recommend, I’ll give him a go. Best wishes for your own project. It must be both exciting and frustrating to be at this point in the process.

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