11th October, 2018
St Chad’s College Chapel
Review by Rahul Shah
A cloud-clustered evening brought friends and fans alike to St. Chad’s Chapel for a poetry reading by the acclaimed English poet, Simon Armitage. The hubbub within was hushed as the husky poet stepped up to the pulpit. He reached down for his glasses (cumbersomely located in his inner blazer pocket), took a moment to collect himself, and then began in his dry-but-polished Yorkshire accent.
The warmth of the chapel, and its hallowed sanctity, added a sense of homeliness to Simon’s words: words which, consumed by the energy of Simon’s travels across the globe, always seemed to return to the comfort of England. His humour (of which there was plenty in both his poetry and his character) was laconic and touching, as his personality as Simon Armitage ‘The Man’ began to emerge. His tableaux take place in the everyday world and he rarely embellishes his poems with romantic glosses or unearthly images – his poetic voice explores his immediate surroundings with a sharp, comic tinge. As such, Simon’s mantric voice is well suited to his poems.
Poems from works such as Kid and The Universal Home Doctor were read, much to the pleasure of the crowd, but Simon also delivered some lesser–known, more personal poems. In between readings, he took a moment to consider the artistic DNA behind each poem, sometimes ridiculing critical interpretations made of them. Nevertheless, he stands as the modern Wordsworth, speaking in the modern tongue to modern audiences, with the same vivacity and understanding of his art as those before him.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.