Simon Armitage

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Simon Armitage
File:Simon Armitage in 2009.jpg
Armitage in 2009
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
Assumed office
10 May 2019
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Carol Ann Duffy
Personal details
Born Simon Robert Armitage
(1963-05-26) 26 May 1963 (age 59)
Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, UK
Nationality British
Residence Holme Valley, West Yorkshire
Education Colne Valley High School
Alma mater Portsmouth Polytechnic
University of Manchester
Occupation Poet, playwright, novelist, lead singer of the Scaremongers

Simon Robert Armitage, CBE, FRSL (born 26 May 1963)[1] is a British poet, playwright and novelist who was appointed Poet Laureate on 10 May 2019.[2] He is also professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and succeeded Geoffrey Hill as Oxford Professor of Poetry when he was elected to the four year part time appointment from 2015–2019.[3]

Life and career

Armitage was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire[4][5] and grew up in the village of Marsden. Armitage first studied at Colne Valley High School, Linthwaite and went on to study geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic. He was a post-graduate student at the University of Manchester where his MA thesis concerned the effects of television violence on young offenders. Until 1994 he worked as probation officer in Greater Manchester. In 1996 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Portsmouth. He has lectured on creative writing at the University of Leeds, the University of Iowa, and Manchester Metropolitan University. He has made literary, history and travel programmes for BBC Radios 3 and 4; and since 1992 he has written and presented a number of TV documentaries. In February 2011 he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield.[6][7]

He lives in West Yorkshire.[8] He is a lifelong Huddersfield Town fan and makes many references to supporting his local team in his book All Points North.

Armitage appeared on British TV on 19 December 2016 in the quiz program "University Challenge" in a team from Manchester University. He failed to answer simple questions about English literature, on the works of Doris Lessing, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, [[Sir Thomas More]]'s Utopia and William McGonagall, the Scottish author of doggerel verse. His team lost. The program was broadcast again on 11 December 2017. [9]


Armitage's poetry collections include Book of Matches (1993) and The Dead Sea Poems (1995). He has written two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as All Points North (1998), a collection of essays on Northern England. He produced a dramatised version of Homer's Odyssey and a collection of poetry entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize), both of which were published in July 2006. Many of Armitage's poems appear in the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) GCSE syllabus for English Literature in the United Kingdom. These include "Homecoming","Extract from Out of the Blue", "November", "Kid", "Hitcher", and a selection of poems from Book of Matches, most notably of these "Mother any distance...".

His writing is characterised by a dry Yorkshire wit combined with "an accessible, realist style and critical seriousness."[7] His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007), was adopted for the ninth edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and he was the narrator of a 2010 BBC documentary about the poem and its use of landscape.[10]

Armitage also writes for radio, television, film and stage. He is the author of four stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of Euripides' The Madness of Heracles. He is currently writing a fifth, The Last Days of Troy, to be premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in June 2014.[11] He was commissioned in 1996 by the National Theatre in London to write Eclipse for the National Connections series, a play inspired by the real-life disappearance of a girl in Hebden Bridge, and set at the time of the 1999 solar eclipse in Cornwall.[12] Most recently he wrote the libretto for an opera scored by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae, The Assassin Tree, based on a Greek myth recounted in The Golden Bough. The opera premiered at the 2006 Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland, before moving to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Saturday Night (Century Films, BBC2, 1996) – wrote and narrated a fifty-minute poetic commentary to a documentary about night-life in Leeds, directed by Brian Hill. In 2010, Armitage walked the 264-mile Pennine Way, walking south from Scotland to Derbyshire. Along the route he stopped to give poetry readings, often in exchange for donations of money, food or accommodation, despite the rejection of the free life seen in his 1993 poem, the Hitcher, and has written a book about his journey, called Walking Home.[6]

He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including The Sunday Times Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, a Lannan Award, and an Ivor Novello Award for his song lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings. Kid and CloudCuckooLand were short-listed for the Whitbread poetry prize. The Dead Sea Poems was short-listed for the Whitbread, the Forward Poetry Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize. The Universal Home Doctor was also short-listed for the T.S. Eliot. In 2000, he was the UK's official Millennium Poet and went on to judge the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize, the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize.

In 2004, Armitage was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[13] He is a vice president of the Poetry Society and a patron of the Arvon Foundation.

For the Stanza Stones Trail, which runs through 47 miles (76 km) of the Pennine region, Armitage composed six new poems on his walks. With the help of local expert Tom Lonsdale and letter-carver Pip Hall, the poems were carved into stones at secluded sites. A book, containing the poems and the accounts of Lonsdale and Hall, has been produced as a record of that journey.[14]

Awards and honours

  • 1988 Eric Gregory Award
  • 1989 Zoom! made a Poetry Book Society Choice
  • 1992 A Forward Poetry Prize for Kid
  • 1993 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year
  • 1994 Lannan Award
  • 1998 Yorkshire Post Book of the Year for All Points North
  • 2003 BAFTA winner
  • 2003 Ivor Novello Award for song-writing
  • 2004 Fellow of Royal Society for Literature
  • 2005 Spoken Word Award (Gold) for The Odyssey
  • 2006 Royal Television Society Documentary Award Winner for Out of the Blue
  • 2008 The Not Dead (C4, Century Films) Mental Health in the Media Documentary Film Winner
  • 2010 Seeing Stars made a Poetry Book Society Choice
  • 2010 Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry
  • 2010 Awarded the CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, for services to poetry
  • 2012 The Death of King Arthur made Poetry Book Society Choice
  • 2012 Hay Medal for Poetry
  • 2012 T S Eliot Prize, shortlist, The Death of King Arthur [15]

Published works

Poetry collections

  • Zoom! (Bloodaxe, 1989) ISBN 978-1-85224-078-3
  • Xanadu (1992)
  • Kid (1992)
  • Book of Matches (1993)
  • The Dead Sea Poems (1995)
  • CloudCuckooLand (1997)
  • Killing Time. (1999)
  • Selected Poems (2001)
  • The Universal Home Doctor (2002)
  • Travelling Songs (2002)
  • The Shout: Selected Poems (2005)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (2006)
  • The Not Dead (2008)
  • Out of the Blue (2008)
  • Seeing Stars (2010)
  • Paper Aeroplanes (2014)


  • Homer's Odyssey (2006)[16]
  • Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (2007)
  • The Death of King Arthur (2011)

Pamphlets and limited editions

  • Human Geography (Smith/Doorstop Books, 1986)
  • Distance Between Stars (Wide Skirt, 1987)
  • The Walking Horses (Slow Dancer, 1988)
  • Around Robinson (Slow Dancer, 1991)
  • The Anaesthetist (Alton; Clarion, Illustrated by Velerii Mishin, 1994)
  • Five Eleven Ninety Nine (Clarion Publishing, Illustrated by Toni Goffe, 1995)
  • Machinery of Grace: A Tribute to Michael Donaghy (Poetry Society, 2005), Contributor
  • The North Star (University of Aberdeen, 2006)-Contributor
  • The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right (Smith/Doorstop Books, 2010)
  • In Memory of Water - The Stanza Stones poems. (Wood engravings by Hilary Paynter. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2013)
  • Considering the Poppy - (Wood engravings by Chris Daunt. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2014)
  • Waymarkings - (Wood engravings by Hilary Paynter. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry due in 2016)


  • Little Green Man (2001)
  • The White Stuff (2004)


  • Penguin Modern Poets BK.5 (with Sean O'Brien and Tony Harrison, 1995)
  • The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 (with Robert Crawford, 1998)
  • Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems (1999)
  • Ted Hughes Poems: Selected by Simon Armitage (2000)
  • The Poetry of Birds (with Tim Dee, 2009)

Other books

  • Moon Country (with Glyn Maxwell,1996)
  • Eclipse (1997)
  • All Points North (1998)
  • Mister Heracles After Euripides (2000)
  • King Arthur in the East Riding (Pocket Penguins,2005)
  • Jerusalem (2005)
  • The Twilight Readings (2008)
  • Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist (2008)
  • Walking Home: Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way (2012)
  • Walking Away : Further Travels with a Troubadour on the South West Coast Path (2015)

Selected television and radio works

  • Second Draft from Saga Land – six programmes for BBC Radio 3 on W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice.
  • Eyes of a Demigod – on Victor Grayson commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
  • The Amherst Myth – on Emily Dickinson, for BBC Radio 4.
  • Points of Reference – on the history of navigation and orientation, for BBC Radio 4.
  • From Salford to Jericho – A verse drama for BBC Radio 4.
  • To Bahia and Beyond – Five travelogue features in verse with Glyn Maxwell from Brazil and the Amazon for BBC Radio 3.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry – A six part dramatisation, with Geoff Young, for BBC Radio 3.
  • Saturday Night (1996) - Century Films/BBC TV
  • A Tree Full of Monkeys (2002) – commissioned by BBC Radio 3, with Zoviet France.
  • The Odyssey (2004) – A three-part dramatisation for BBC Radio 4.
  • Writing the City (2005) – commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2010) - BBC documentary[17]
  • Gods and Monsters - Homer's Odyssey (2010) - BBC documentary
  • The Making of King Arthur (2010) - BBC documentary
  • The Pendle Witch Child (2011) - BBC documentary, examining the role of Jennet Device in the Pendle Witch Trials
  • Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster (2011), consisting of poems telling the story of Sophie Lancaster's life, together with the personal recollections of her mother.
  • The Last Days of Troy (2015) - A two part dramatisation for BBC Radio 4.

See also


  1. "Biography » Simon Armitage - The Official Website".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Simon Armitage: 'Witty and profound' writer to be next Poet Laureate". BBC News. 10 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Flood, Alison (19 June 2015). "Simon Armitage wins Oxford professor of poetry election". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Simon Armitage - British Council Literature". Retrieved 22 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Retrieved 22 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Pennine Way activities on Armitage's website". Retrieved 22 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ogden, Rachael (June 2001). "Preview: Simon Armitage". The North Guide. UK: North Guide: 27. ISSN 1470-4153. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "All Points North". Retrieved 22 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "BBC Four - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". BBC Online. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The Last Days of Troy by Simon Armitage starring Lily Cole / Shakespeare's Globe". Retrieved 7 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Shell Connections at the National". Peter Lathan. 2004. Retrieved 3 April 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59446. p. 7. 12 June 2010.
  14. Profile,; accessed 11 May 2015.
  15. Alison Flood (23 October 2012). "TS Eliot prize for poetry announces 'fresh, bold' shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Mad, Wild, Hurling Tales of Odysseus' Journey". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (BBC Documentary)". YouTube. Retrieved 6 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading


External links

  1. Frangoul, Anmar (23 May 2010). "The deadly serious poet's society". The Sunday Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>