Simon Armitage

Simon Robert Armitage, CBE, FRSL (born 26 May 1963)[1] is an English poet, playwright and novelist. He is professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and succeeded Geoffrey Hill as Oxford Professor of Poetry when he was elected to the 4-year part-time appointment from 2015–2019.[2] On 10 May 2019 it was announced that Armitage would be the next Poet Laureate.[3]

Simon Armitage

Armitage in 2009
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
Assumed office
10 May 2019
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byCarol Ann Duffy
Personal details
Simon Robert Armitage

(1963-05-26) 26 May 1963
Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
ResidenceHolme Valley, West Yorkshire, England
EducationColne Valley High School
Alma materPortsmouth Polytechnic
University of Manchester
OccupationPoet, playwright, novelist, lead singer of the Scaremongers

Early life and Education

Armitage was born in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire[4][5] and grew up in the village of Marsden, where his family still live.[6] He has an older sister, Hilary. His father Peter is a former probation officer who is well known locally for writing plays and pantos for his all-male panto group, The Avalanche Dodgers.[6][7]

He wrote his first poem aged 10 as a school assignment.[6] Armitage first studied at Colne Valley High School, Linthwaite, and went on to study geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic. He was a post-graduate student at the University of Manchester where his MA thesis concerned the effects of television violence on young offenders. Finding himself jobless after graduation, he decided to train as a probation officer, like his father before him. Around this time he began writing poetry more seriously.[6] He worked as a probation officer in Greater Manchester until 1994.[8]


His first poetry collection was called Human Geography (1988). He published Zoom! in 1989.[8]

He has lectured on creative writing at the University of Leeds, the University of Iowa, and was senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has made literary, history and travel programmes for BBC Radio 3 and 4; and since 1992 he has written and presented a number of TV documentaries. From 2009-2012 he was Artist in Residence at London's South Bank, and in February 2011 he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield.[9][10] In October 2017 he was appointed as the first Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds.[11] In 2019 he was appointed Poet Laureate for ten years, following Carol Ann Duffy.[12]

He lives in the Holme Valley, West Yorkshire, close to his family home in Marsden.[13] He makes many references to supporting his local football team in his book All Points North.


Armitage's poetry collections include Book of Matches (1993) and The Dead Sea Poems (1995). He has written two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as All Points North (1998), a collection of essays on Northern England. He produced a dramatised version of Homer's Odyssey and a collection of poetry entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize), both of which were published in July 2006. Many of Armitage's poems appear in the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) GCSE syllabus for English Literature in the United Kingdom. These include "Homecoming", "Extract from Out of the Blue", "November", "Kid", "Hitcher", "remains", and a selection of poems from Book of Matches, most notably of these "Mother any distance...". His work also appears on CCEA's GCSE English Literature course.

He is characterised by a dry Yorkshire wit combined with "an accessible, realist style and critical seriousness."[10] His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007), was adopted for the ninth edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and he was the narrator of a 2010 BBC documentary about the poem and its use of landscape.[14]

Armitage also writes for radio, television, film and stage. He is the author of five stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of Euripides' The Madness of Heracles. The Last Days of Troy premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in June 2014.[15] He was commissioned in 1996 by the National Theatre in London to write Eclipse for the National Connections series, a play inspired by the real-life disappearance of a girl in Hebden Bridge, and set at the time of the 1999 solar eclipse in Cornwall.[16]

Most recently Armitage wrote the libretto for an opera scored by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae, The Assassin Tree, based on a Greek myth recounted in The Golden Bough. The opera premiered at the 2006 Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland, before moving to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Saturday Night (Century Films, BBC2, 1996) – wrote and narrated a fifty-minute poetic commentary to a documentary about night-life in Leeds, directed by Brian Hill. In 2010, Armitage walked the 264-mile Pennine Way, walking south from Scotland to Derbyshire. Along the route he stopped to give poetry readings, often in exchange for donations of money, food or accommodation, despite the rejection of the free life seen in his 1993 poem "Hitcher", and has written a book about his journey, called Walking Home.[9]

He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including The Sunday Times Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, a Lannan Award, and an Ivor Novello Award for his song lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings. Kid and CloudCuckooLand were short-listed for the Whitbread poetry prize. The Dead Sea Poems was short-listed for the Whitbread, the Forward Poetry Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize. The Universal Home Doctor was also short-listed for the T.S. Eliot. In 2000, he was the UK's official Millennium Poet and went on to judge the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize, the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize.

In 2004, Armitage was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[17] He is a vice president of the Poetry Society and a patron of the Arvon Foundation.

In 2007 he released an album of songs co-written with the musician Craig Smith, under the band name The Scaremongers.[18]

For the Stanza Stones Trail, which runs through 47 miles (76 km) of the Pennine region, Armitage composed six new poems on his walks. With the help of local expert Tom Lonsdale and letter-carver Pip Hall, the poems were carved into stones at secluded sites. A book, containing the poems and the accounts of Lonsdale and Hall, has been produced as a record of that journey[19] and has been published by Enitharmon Press. The poems, complemented with commissioned wood engravings by Hilary Paynter, were also published under the title 'In Memory of Water' by

In 2016 the arts programme 14-18 NOW commissioned a series of poems by Simon Armitage as part of a five-year programme of new artwork created specifically to mark the centenary of the First World War.[20] The poems are a response to six aerial or panoramic photographs of battlefields from the archive of the Imperial War Museum in London. The poetry collection Still premiered at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and has been published in partnership with Enitharmon Press.

In 2019 Armitage's first poem as Poet Laureate, "Conquistadors", commemorating the 1969 moon landing, was published in The Guardian.[21][22]

Armitage's second poem as Poet Laureate, "Finishing it" was commissioned in 2019 by the Institute of Cancer Research. Micro-engraver, Graham Short, meticulously carved the entire 51-word poem clearly onto a facsimile of a cancer treatment tablet.[23][24]

Armitage wrote "All Right" as part of Northern train operator's suicide prevention campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week.[25] On 21 September 2019 he read his poem "Fugitives", commissioned by the Association of Areas of Natural Beauty, on Arnside Knott, Cumbria, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.[26][27][28] He wrote "Ark" for the naming ceremony of the British Antarctic Survey's new ship RRS Sir David Attenborough on 26 September 2019.[29][30]

Laurel Prize

In November 2019 Armitage announced that he would donate his salary as poet laureate to create a new prize for a collection of poems "with nature and the environment at their heart". The prize is to be run by the Poetry School.[31]

Personal life

Armitage is married to radio producer Sue Roberts. They have a daughter, Emmeline, born in 2000.[32] Emmeline won the 2017 SLAMbassadors national youth poetry slam for 13-18-year-olds.[33] Continuing in both her father's and grandfather's tradition, she is a member of the National Youth Theatre and a singer.[34]


Armitage is the first poet laureate who is also a DJ.[6][35] He is a massive music fan, especially of The Smiths.[6] During what his wife Sue described as "a bit of a mid-life crisis", Armitage and his college friend Craig Smith founded the band The Scaremongers.[6] Their only album, Born in a Barn, was released in 2010.[36]

Awards and honours

Published works

Poetry collections

  • Zoom! (Bloodaxe, 1989) ISBN 978-1-85224-078-3
  • Xanadu (1992)
  • Kid (1992)
  • Book of Matches (1993)
  • The Dead Sea Poems (1995)
  • CloudCuckooLand (1997)
  • Killing Time. (1999)
  • Selected Poems (2001)
  • The Universal Home Doctor (2002)
  • Travelling Songs (2002)
  • The Shout: Selected Poems (2005)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (2006)
  • The Not Dead (2008)
  • Out of the Blue (2008)
  • Seeing Stars (2010)
  • Stanza Stones (2013, Enitharmon Press)
  • Paper Aeroplanes (2014)
  • Remains
  • Still - A Poetic Response to Photographs of the Somme Battlefield (2016, Enitharmon Press)
  • The Unaccompanied (2017)
  • Flit (2018)
  • "Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic" (2019)


  • Homer's Odyssey (2006)[42]
  • Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (2007)
  • The Death of King Arthur (2012)
  • Pearl (2017)
  • Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (2018), new revised translation, illustrated by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Pamphlets and limited editions

  • Human Geography (Smith/Doorstop Books, 1986)
  • Distance Between Stars (Wide Skirt, 1987)
  • The Walking Horses (Slow Dancer, 1988)
  • Around Robinson (Slow Dancer, 1991)
  • The Anaesthetist (Alton; Clarion, Illustrated by Velerii Mishin, 1994)
  • Five Eleven Ninety Nine (Clarion Publishing, Illustrated by Toni Goffe, 1995)
  • Machinery of Grace: A Tribute to Michael Donaghy (Poetry Society, 2005), Contributor
  • The North Star (University of Aberdeen, 2006)-Contributor
  • The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right (Smith/Doorstop Books, 2010)
  • In Memory of Water - The Stanza Stones poems. (Wood engravings by Hilary Paynter. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2013)
  • Considering the Poppy - (Wood engravings by Chris Daunt. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2014)
  • Waymarkings - (Wood engravings by Hilary Paynter. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2016)
  • New Cemetery (Published by propolis, 2017)
  • Exit the Known World - (Wood engravings by Hilary Paynter. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2018)
  • Flit - (Poetry and photographs by Simon Armitage, Published by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2018, 40th anniversary edition)
  • Hansel and Gretel - (A new narrative poem by Simon Armitage, illustrated by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Published by Design for Today, 2019)
  • Gymnasium - (Drawings by Antony Gormley. Published by Andrew J Moorhouse, Fine Press Poetry, 2019)


  • Little Green Man (2001)
  • The White Stuff (2004)


  • Penguin Modern Poets BK.5 (with Sean O'Brien and Tony Harrison, 1995)
  • The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 (with Robert Crawford, 1998)
  • Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems (1999)
  • Ted Hughes Poems: Selected by Simon Armitage (2000)
  • The Poetry of Birds (with Tim Dee, 2009)

Other books

  • Moon Country (with Glyn Maxwell, 1996)
  • Eclipse (1997)
  • All Points North (1998)
  • Mister Heracles After Euripides (2000)
  • King Arthur in the East Riding (Pocket Penguins, 2005)
  • Jerusalem (2005)
  • The Twilight Readings (2008)
  • Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist (2008)
  • Walking Home: Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way (2012)
  • Walking Away : Further Travels with a Troubadour on the South West Coast Path (2015)

Selected television and radio works

  • Second Draft from Saga Land – six programmes for BBC Radio 3 on W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice.
  • Eyes of a Demigod – on Victor Grayson commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
  • The Amherst Myth – on Emily Dickinson, for BBC Radio 4.
  • Points of Reference – on the history of navigation and orientation, for BBC Radio 4.
  • From Salford to Jericho – A verse drama for BBC Radio 4.
  • To Bahia and Beyond – Five travelogue features in verse with Glyn Maxwell from Brazil and the Amazon for BBC Radio 3.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry – A six-part dramatisation, with Geoff Young, for BBC Radio 3.
  • Saturday Night (1996) - Century Films/BBC TV
  • A Tree Full of Monkeys (2002) – commissioned by BBC Radio 3, with Zoviet France.
  • The Odyssey (2004) – A three-part dramatisation for BBC Radio 4.
  • Writing the City (2005) – commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2010) - BBC documentary[43]
  • Gods and Monsters — Homer's Odyssey (2010) - BBC documentary
  • The Making of King Arthur (2010) - BBC documentary
  • The Pendle Witch Child (2011) - BBC documentary, examining the role of Jennet Device in the Pendle Witch Trials
  • Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster (2011), consisting of poems telling the story of Sophie Lancaster's life, together with the personal recollections of her mother.
  • The Last Days of Troy (2015) - A two-part dramatisation for BBC Radio 4.

See also


  1. "Biography » Simon Armitage - The Official Website".
  2. Flood, Alison (19 June 2015). "Simon Armitage wins Oxford professor of poetry election". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  3. "Simon Armitage: 'Witty and profound' writer to be next Poet Laureate". BBC News. 10 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  4. "Simon Armitage — British Council Literature". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  5. "Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  6. "BBC Radio 4, Profile — Simon Armitage". 18 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  7. Stelfox, Hilarie (13 February 2014). "The Thespian gene runs strongly in the Armitage family". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  8. Flood, Alison (10 May 2019). "Simon Armitage named UK's poet laureate". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  9. "Pennine Way activities on Armitage's website". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  10. Ogden, Rachael (June 2001). "Preview: Simon Armitage". The North Guide. UK: North Guide: 27. ISSN 1470-4153.
  11. "Simon Armitage comes full circle with Professor of Poetry post". University of Leeds. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  12. "Simon Armitage appointed new UK Poet Laureate". Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. 10 May 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  13. "All Points North". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  14. "BBC Four — Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". BBC Online. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  15. "The Last Days of Troy by Simon Armitage starring Lily Cole / Shakespeare's Globe". Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  16. "Shell Connections at the National". Peter Lathan. 2004. Archived from the original on 10 October 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  17. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 7.
  18. "A poet who formed a band". the Guardian. 28 September 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  19. Profile,; accessed 11 May 2015.
  20. "Still - 14-18 NOW".
  21. Flood, Alison (27 July 2019). "Moon landing poem launches Simon Armitage as poet laureate". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  22. Armitage, Simon. "Conquistadors" (PDF). Simon Armitage. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  23. Glynn, Paul (14 August 2019). "Simon Armitage pens poem on cancer pill". BBC News. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  24. Armitage, Simon. "Finishing It" (PDF). Simon Armitage. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  25. "Northern's new suicide prevention campaign asks the people of Manchester: "All Right?"". Northern Railway. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  26. "Celebrating our special landscapes". Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 23 September 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  27. "Poem commissioned to celebrate national parks". Ecologist. 25 September 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  28. Armitage, Simon. "Fugitives" (PDF). Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  29. "Ship is named with royal ceremony". British Antarctic Survey. 26 September 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  30. Armitage, Simon. "Ark" (PDF). Simon Armitage. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  31. Flood, Alison (21 November 2019). "Simon Armitage: 'Nature has come back to the centre of poetry'". The Guardian.
  32. "Simon Armitage: 'I'm quite boyish in my outlook'". The Independent. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  33. "SLAMbassadors 2017 winners announced". SLAMbassadors. 19 November 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  34. "Emmeline Armitage". SoundCloud. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  35. "Simon Armitage Guest DJs on Sat 26th May". Scared to Dance. 26 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  36. "The Scaremongers – Born in a Barn". 8 March 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  37. Alison Flood (23 October 2012). "TS Eliot prize for poetry announces 'fresh, bold' shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  38. "Simon Armitage - Sheffield Hallam University".
  39. "University of Leeds awards poet Simon Armitage honorary degree". 15 July 2015 via
  40. "2017 PEN America Literary Awards Winners - PEN America". PEN America. 27 March 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  41. Cain, Sian (19 December 2018). "Simon Armitage wins Queen's gold medal for poetry 2018". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  42. "Mad, Wild, Hurling Tales of Odysseus' Journey". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  43. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (BBC Documentary)". YouTube. Retrieved 6 February 2013.

Further reading

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