Wednesday, July 07, 2010

SEEING STARS BY SIMON ARMITAGE

I've been sharing some of my favourite new poetry books recently, so as soon as I read Simon Armitage's SEEING STARS I knew I wanted it to be my next choice up here.



It's a series of dramatic monologues, speaking direct into your ear and conjuring up such pictures in your mind. As the blurb says 'Here comes everybody: The man whose wife drapes a border-curtain across the middle of the marital home... an orgiastic cast of pie-worshippers at a Northern scultpure farm ... a Christian cheese-shop proprietor in the wrong part of town."

As that may suggest, some pieces made me laugh out loud...

At the annual Conference of Advanced Criminal Psychology, Dr Amsterdam and myself skipped the afternoon seminar on Offending Behaviours Within Gated Communities and went into town to go nicking stuff...

(From The Delegates)


But others were more dreamy...

When you ask me what time it is, it's purple. And when the alarm goes off in a morning it's a sort of metallic, minty green, like the noisette triangle in a packet of Quality Street - a particular favourite of mine but hard on the teeth. And when you say you love me, and whisper your love for me, personally, into my inner ear, it's custard-yellow embossed with a bold red heart, lie a door I once saw in an otherwise dried-up town on the side of a hill near Salamanca.

(From The Overtones)


To be honest, I'm still not quite sure what Simon Armitage is writing here - poems, or prose poems, or even flash fiction. They are nicely eccentric though, and by about half way through I felt fiercely and strangely protective of them. I think this book is going to spawn a whole new generation of copy-cats but if that's so, I hope they manage to keep some of that perfect balance of extraordinary imagination and empathy.

Then slowly but slowly I opened my fist to the unknown. And out of the void, slowly but slowly, it came: the pulsing starfish of a child's hand, swimming and swimming and coming to settle on my upturned palm.

(From I'll be There to Love and Comfort You)


I couldn't find any clips of Simon Armitage reading any of his poems from Seeing Stars on Youtube - but I did find a video of him deconstructing The Smith's "This Charming Man'. I'm not putting it up here because it may just put you off him for ever, but if you're interested look here, but don't say I didn't warn you...

Better still, read this book instead.

5 comments:

Rosie said...

I heard Armitage read The Delegates on the radio a few months ago (I think it was Radio3). It was one of the best readings I've heard, and I just loved the poem so much. Your post has reminded me that I need to buy that collection! Thank you :)

Mat Riches said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU5MmSdQppQ

The second poem here has his nibs doing The Christening from Seeing Stars

SARAH SALWAY said...

Will look that up, Rosie, and THANK YOU, Mat. I do love how this blog is mostly a team effort!

SueG said...

I nearly finished this book just before I headed to the States and, for some reason, left it behind. I loved it, though found many of them quite disturbing. But his metaphors are amazing, and I must say, I might end up being one of his copy cats. I love the form -- whatever it is.

Sophie said...

I love this collection! Haven't been able to stop reading it since it thudded onto my doormat. The form is certainly intriguing, and yes, a definite copy-cat possiblity.

I've heard Simon read the opening poem of the collection, 'The Christening' at a few festivals (including Latitude, a couple of years ago), so maybe there are YouTube videos in existence from there?