The sunday poem: 2. Simon Armitage
Every week Ruth Padel discusses a contemporary poet through an example of their work
Sunday 29 November 1998
Standing its ground on the hill, as if it could hide
in its own stars, low down in the west of the sky.
I could hit it from here with a stone, put the torch
in the far back of its eyes. It's that close.
The next night, the dustbin sacked, the bin-bag
quartered for dog meat, biscuit and bone.
The night after that, six magpies lifting
from fox fur, smeared up ahead on the road.
A poem about distance and secret violence, moving from the star fox to hurting it, being raided by it, its death. Gesturing to Ted Hughes's poem on writing a poem, "The Thought-Fox", it is also about that wily, near-but-far, piratically vulnerable thing, inspiration.
Aptly for a secretive animal, the poem is held together by inner rhyme: "ground", "own", "low down", "stone" (echoed in "close"), then "bone" and "road", which rings you back to "d" on the first line-end. The fox runs from "hide", to "road", via its "own", "low" attachments (ground, stone, bone), threatened by the hidden rhyme of "if it" and "hit it". This first stanza is long vowels: "hide", "eye", "sky". The second's rat-tat-tat sounds speed things up. Bs, Ks and Ts ("meat", "biscuit", "meat", "bag", "magpie", "sacked") get the fox's snapping appetite and foreshadow its own end - as meat.
Among many monosyllables, the participles' softer endings speak to each other: "standing", the first word, sadly partners "lifting", which "lifts" those magpies over the edge of the nearly-last line, up from the fox who once, like them, inhabited the sky.
c Ruth Padel
''The Fox' appears in Cloud Cuckoo Land, Faber
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 3 George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
- 4 Saudi Arabia executes 19 in one half of August in 'disturbing surge of beheadings'
- 5 Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Gregg Wallace joins line-up as final celebrities revealed
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Great British Bake Off 2014: Ofcom receives 13 complaints about Baked Alaska episode
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >