Simon Armitage

U.K. Poet Laureate
Distinguished British Poet & Writer
Award Winning Translator
Forward Prize Winner

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  • An Evening with Simon Armitage

Biography

“Armitage is that rare beast: a poet whose work is ambitious, accomplished and complex as well as popular….he has become one of the most distinctive voices in British literature.” —The Telegraph

“A writer who has had a game-changing influence on his contemporaries, and continues to cast a shadow over younger poets.” —The Guardian

Born in 1963  in the village of Marsden, England, Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet, author, songwriter, playwright, and translator. Residing in West Yorkshire, he is the current Professor of Poetry at Oxford University (2015-2019) and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. The Unaccompanied (August 2017)a  powerful new collection of poetry in which Armitage X-rays the weary but ironic soul of Britain with grace, is his most recent publication.

In 2019, Simon Armitage was named the United Kingdom’s 21st Poet Laureate. In 2010, for services to poetry, Armitage was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. His numerous other awards include the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, one of the first Forward Prizes, a Lannan Award, a Cholmondeley Award and the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize. In 2012, at the 25th Hay Festival, he was presented with the Hay Medal for Poetry. In 1999 Armitage was named the Millennium Poet and published the one thousand line poem Killing Time. In 2017, he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his new verse translation of Pearl. The judges citation states Armitage, “gives the contemporary reader unrivaled access to a haunting poem of love, mourning, beauty, and religious mystery. Combining elegance and erudition with graceful ease, Armitage recreates the original poem’s alliterative and intricate formal structure, illuminating why Pearl is such a foundational lyrical poem in English literature. Like all great poetry, and like the original Pearl itself, this marvelous feat of translation is a gift back to our own language and a gift toward its future.”

Armitage’s first full-length collection of poems, Zoom!, was published in 1989 and Xanadu was published in 1992, both by Bloodaxe Books. Further collections, all published by Faber & Faber, include: Kid (1992); Book of Matches (1993); The Dead Sea Poems (1995); Moon Country (with Glyn Maxwell, 1996); CloudCuckooLand (1997); Killing Time (1999); Selected Poems (2001); Travelling Songs (2002); The Universal Home Doctor (2002); Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (2006; in the US by Knopf 2008), shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Seeing Stars (2010, in the US by Knopf 2011); and Paper Aeroplane, Selected Poems 1989-2014 (2014). The Shout, his first US collection was published by Harcourt in 2005 and was also shortlisted for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. With Robert Crawford he edited The Penguin Anthology of Poetry from Britain and Ireland Since 1945 and is the editor of a selection of Ted Hughes’ poetry.

Armitage’s highly acclaimed translation of the middle English classic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was commissioned by Faber & Faber in the UK and Norton in the US and published in 2007; the translation has sold over one hundred thousand copies worldwide and now appears in its entirety in the Norton Anthology of English Literature. A further medieval translation, The Death of King Arthur, was published by Faber and Norton in 2011, was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the 2012 TS Eliot Prize. His translation of the medieval poem Pearl was published  in 2016 from Faber & Faber in the UK and from Norton in the US.

Armitage writes extensively for radio and television, and is the author of four stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of the Euripides play The Madness of Heracles, and The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2014. His dramatization of The Odyssey, commissioned by the BBC, was published as Homer’s Odyssey – A Retelling by Faber & Faber in the UK and by Norton in the US. In 2005 he received an Ivor Novello Award for his song-lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings, which also won a BAFTA, and in 2006 his television documentary Song Birds was screened at the Sun Dance Film Festival. As a broadcaster Armitage has presented films for the BBC on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Arthurian Literature and on Homer’s Odyssey, sailing from Troy in Turkey to the Greek island of Ithaca. In 2006 he wrote the libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, composed by Stuart McRae, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Armitage has published two novels, Little Green Man (Penguin, 2001) and The White Stuff (Penguin, 2004). His other prose works include the three best-selling non-fiction titles All Points North; Walking Home—published in the US by Norton under the title Walking Home, a Poet’s Journey; and Walking Away.

Armitage has served as a judge for the Forward Prize, the T.S Eliot Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the Griffin Prize, and in 2006 was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. Simon Armitage is a Vice President of the Poetry Society and in 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has taught at the University of Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan University and in 2000 at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. In 2012, as an artist in residence at London’s South Bank Centre, he conceived and curated Poetry Parnassus, a gathering of world poets and poetry from every Olympic nation as part of Britain’s Cultural Olympiad, a landmark event generally recognized as the biggest coming together of international poets in history.

Short Bio

One of England’s best-loved authors and current U.K. Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet, author, songwriter, playwright, and translator. His numerous collections of poetry include The Unaccompanied (August 2017), Paper Aeroplane: Poems 1989-2014,  Seeing StarsTyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid, and The Shout. In addition, he has published new verse translations of The OdysseySir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Death of King Arthur. His nonfiction book, Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey, documents his 265-mile walking tour across England, working as a “modern troubadour.”In 2010, for services to poetry, Armitage was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) at Buckingham Palace. His other numerous awards in the UK include the Gregory Award and a Forward Prize; in the US he has received a major Lannan Award and was twice shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Armitage is the current Professor of Poetry at Oxford University (2015-2019) and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield.

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