Simon Armitage

Poetry in motion

Popular. That's what prefixes Simon Armitage's name in any and every text about him. Lovely. That's what prefixes his name in any and every conversation about him. I'd like to be able to say that he's neither; but is instead a gin- slinging, opium-smoking, word- wielding maniac. But he's not. Well he could be, but there's no arguing that he really is popular and really quite lovely.

Born in Yorkshire in 1963 and raised in a house that was full of ‘chatting and talking and taking the piss', Simon Armitage dabbled in the scribbles of teenage angst like the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us became a probation officer, gave it up and is now regarded as one of Britain's most popular (yes that word again) contemporary poets.

When asked about his popularity, it becomes clear that Armitage has worked hard at reaching different people; giving readings and lectures, a three-year stint on the Mark Radcliffe radio show and the inclusion of his work on the GCSE

syllabus has led to a diverse audience.

'I've benefited from a trend in contemporary poetry which is conscious of wanting a readership,’ he says, 'and I've grown up in that ideal. So it’s always been a natural thing for me to try and communicate with people and want people to read my work.’

But let's face it, wanting a readership is not enough to ensure one, and this is where his poetry starts working. Armitage has a way of making the ordinary extraordinary. He takes 'a little bit of language floating around' and turns it into an idea, or uses ‘an issue, experience or memory' to create beautiful, distinctive yet accessible poetry. And it is part of this accessibility that has ensured him an assorted and eager audience.


Four Little Plays Called Rape

The many faces of aggression

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Simon Armitage whiles away the hours with his 1000 line poem Killing Time


(Viv Franzmann)

Rape. Chances are, when you hear the word, you automatically think of sexual violence. But it can come in many different guises; megalomania, fascism and racism are also forms of violation, and it is these which are explored in this production. ’Sexual violence is not actually depicted at all,’ says writer/performer Henry Layte. ’The play is designed to make you readdress your preconceptions of what rape is. It’s not designed to shock or offend, but it is pretty nasty in places.’

As the title suggests, the play is divided into four different stories which segue into each other. As well as varying in their interpretation of the theme, each of the stories is set in a different location and time, from 18th century France to modern day London. ’The stories are completely independent of each other, but they

I See Hit list, right.

He writes about the things we know and we love him for it. 'It doesn't matter to me if you're talking about Chaucer or The Sex Pistols, it's all the same to me,’ says

His latest work is the result of a commission by The New Millennium Experience Company. He describes Killing Time as 'a kind of time capsule done with words instead of objects.’ In this 1000-line poem, the events of 1999 are held up for our inspection. Some horrify, some sadden and some make us laugh, but always we hear the unique and lovely voice of poetry’s Mr Popular.

are linked,’ says Leyte. ’They metamorphose into one another through the use of music and other devices.’ Although the play has been lauded as ’profoundly moral', Leyte is adamant that he’s not on a moral crusade. ’I don’t want people to go away and change the way they act,’ he says. ’I just want them to think about the way societies treat each other.’ The piece does promise some light relief in places though. 'There is humour there,’ Leyte says. 'Maybe people will be afraid to laugh, but that's a good thing. I hope they do feel like that, because then they'll think about why they’re laughing.’

(Kirsty Knaggs)

I Four Little Plays Cal/ed Rape (Fringe) Rank Taxi, Diverse Attractions (Venue 77) 225 8967, 74—26 Aug (not 20) 7.30pm, £4 (£3.50).

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Tasty morsels to tempt you this lunchtime . . .

Further Than The Furthest Thing

Evacuated islanders find England a shock to the system in Zinnie Harris’ award-winning play. See review. Further Than The Furthest Thing (Fringe) Traverse (Venue 75) 228 7404, until 26 Aug, various times, £72 (£7.50).

No. 2

New Zealand actress Madeleine Sami plays all nine members of one family in this stunning new play about Fijian life. See review. No. 2 (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 28 Aug (not 74) 2. 75pm.

£8. 50/£9.50 (£7. 50/£8.50).


Dark, dangerous and drug- fuelled, Jez Butterworth’s powerful look at 19505 Soho gangsters. See review. Mojo (Fringe) The Really Youthful Theatre Company, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 28 Aug, 7.30pm, £70/£77

(£9/£ 70).

AWomen In Waiting

Themi Mtshali’s heart-wrenching autobiographical show set in the South African townships. See review. A Woman In Waiting (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 28 Aug (not 22) 2.30pm, £9/£ 70 (£8/£ 9).


Tragic lovers on the road and on the run in this moving rock opera featuring a real Fiat 127 on stage. See review. Bliss (Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2757, until 28 Aug, 2.30pm, £8 (£7).

Simon Armitage

See preview left. Simon Armitage (Book) Charlotte Square Gardens, 624 5050, Mon 74 Aug, 7pm; Tue 75 Aug, 5.30pm, £6.50 (£4.50).