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Monday, 1 October 2007

Ubiquitous Armitage

Simon Armitage (left) has been everywhere this week-end, in the British media - a genuine blitz. He was the cover story for the Guardian's Weekend magazine - he's founded a new band, at age 44, with an old friend, and they're The Scaremongers. Okay, suitably Gitmo-zeitgeist. And then, on the BBC flagship morning radio show, Today, at around 8.25 (today), he popped up, not to sing a few Scaremonger tunes, but to read a new poem, "The Not Dead" I believe it was titled, all about how veterans of the current wars have been let down by Britannia, and feel like awkward ghosts in ordinary towns. Okay, that may not be Ivor Gurney stuff, but it packed a punch, and is for a very good cause - the soldiers are bearing the brunt of shame better levelled at Blair (and the voters who allowed Iraq to happen) - and receiving few benefits for their patriotism and sense of duty. Armitage is one of the best, and most prolific, of the mainstream poets of his generation, and it is good to see him getting so much airplay, but there is a new generation or two now coming up, those in their 30s, and those in their 20s, exemplified by the other new media darlings, Daljit Nagra and Luke Kennard (up for 2007 Forwards in two different categories, Kennard poised to be the prodigal Dylan Thomas/ Auden of his age, especially if he wins, stay tuned). In the UK, to be on the poetry map, it seems you have to be on the radio, telly, or in a paper. Those who mainly just read and write poems can end up feeling pretty ghostly too - the silent majority of poets. And what is it with poets and bands, anyway? There's Puggy Hammer in Montreal, Paul Muldoon's group, and now Armitage's, and I have no doubt there are many, many others. Can't imagine Wallace Stevens was in a band, but if he had been, it might have been The Keener Demarcations. Yeah, dig those ghostlier sounds.
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