BOOKS / Contemporary Poets: 8 Simon Armitage

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The Independent Culture
Simon Armitage was born in Huddersfield in 1963 and now works as a probation officer in Oldham. Zoom] (1989) was one of the most acclaimed first collections of the 1980s, and he has followed it recently with Kid (Faber), as slangy, downbeat and witty as his debut, and Xanadu (Bloodaxe), the poems written to accompany a film he made for television about a Rochdale housing estate.


I'd been tired, under

the weather, but the ansaphone kept screaming:

one more sick-note, mister, and you're finished. Fired.

I thumbed a lift to where the car was parked.

A Vauxhall Astra. It was hired.

I picked him up in Leeds.

He was following the sun to west from east

with just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed. The truth,

he said, was blowin' in the wind,

or round the next bend.

I let him have it

on the top road out of Harrogate: once

with the head, then six times with an elbow

in the face, and didn't even swerve.

I dropped it into third

and leant across

to let him out, and saw him in the mirror

bouncing off the curb then disappearing down the verge.

We were the same age, give or take a week.

He'd said he liked the breeze

to run its fingers

through his hair. It was twelve noon.

The outlook for the day was moderate to fair.

Stitch that, I remember thinking,

you can walk from there.