On Thursday March 22nd. Nola Turner and Ruth Smith attended an event at The Geographical Society, Kensington where Simon Armitage was in conversation with Martine Croxall about his life and work. It is now some time since his first collection ‘Zoom!’ which Simon now describes as his entry point into the world of poetry. Now in his mid-fifties, he has recently published ‘The Unaccompanied,’ his 11th. collection of poetry.
Unfortunately, just as Simon Armitage was getting into his swing, the fire alarm went off and everyone was guided to a spot outside the building. A fire engine quickly arrived and we were very soon back inside but with a reduced audience for the rest of the conversation.
The main conversation was about two books ‘Walking Home’ and ‘Walking Away’ the first being an account of his walk along the Pennine Way. In fact he walked it ‘the wrong way round’ as the idea was to walk home to the village of Marsden where he was born. Simon described it as a test both of his stamina and his poetic reputation as he gave readings every night in pubs, village halls, churches and private houses in return for board and lodging. Money was collected in a sock passed round for that purpose. He described the walking as ‘harder on my smile than on my feet.’
‘Walking Away’ is another troubadour quest along the South West Coastal path. At his daughter’s suggestion, Simon recorded his thoughts by speaking into his phone. A notebook would have involved too much stopping and starting.
Simon described himself as a ‘kitchen-sink- poet,’ interested in the details of everyday life leading to the universal. He talked a little about his rendering of Gawain and the Green Knight saying, ‘that, in itself, is a great travel poem.’ He said, interestingly, that one good thing about being a poet is that ‘you own the page’ as each poem stands on its own with white space around it