Friday, January 9, 2015

biannual britpoet feature

My spouse hails from Manchester, England ("England, across the Atlantic Sea, and I'm a genius genius") and all her parents are language and literature specialists.  It's become a tradition for me to receive from them gifts of poets less well known on these shores, and this Yuletide I received Paper Aeroplane by Simon Armitage. 

The back cover of this Selected Poems 1989-2014 says he's "the first poet of serious artistic intent since Philip Larkin to have achieved popularity," and yet I'm guessing that once again few of us know his work, since mysteriously so little seems to cross the pond. I knew him only as a novelist, and finding out that he's published a ton of poetry collections makes me feel a little ignorant. Here's Simon at the Poetry Foundation, and here's a poem from his new book. 

A Glory | Simon Armitage

Right here you made an angel of yourself,
free-fallng backwards into last night's snow,
indenting a straight, neat, cruicified shape,
then flapping your arms, one stroke, a great bird,
to leave the impression of wings.  It worked.
Then you found your feet, sprang clear of the print
and the angel remained:  fixed, countersunk,
open wide, hosting the whole the sky.

Losing sleep because of it, I backtrack
to the place, out of earshot of the streets,
above the fetch and reach of the town.
The scene of the crime.  Five-eights of the moon.
On ground where snow has given up the ghost
it lies on its own, spread-eagled, embossed,
commending itself, star of its own cause.
Priceless thing--the facelesss hood of the head,
grass poking out through the scored spine, the wings
on the turn, becoming feathered, clipped.

Cattle would trample roughshod over it,
hikers might come with pebbles for the eyes,
a choice of fruit for the nose and the lips;
somebody's boy might try it on for size,
might lie down in its shroud, might suit, might fit.  Angel,
from under the shade and shelter of trees
I keep watch, wait for the dawn to take you
raise you, imperceptibly, by degrees.

Now, no kidding--I hadn't spent much time with Simon yet--so I just opened my new 232-page volume randomly and found this poem.  But, with snow on the ground here and this poem in my own Pumpkin Butterfly, why would I look any further?

Frozen Angels | Heidi Mordhorst

We line up and hold hands
knees locked,      
then let go
Falling blindly, keen to feel
the crunch as we break the
perfect snow

Arms drag and legs plow
high and open
shut and low
Doing slowly jumping jacks
flat on our backs in
heavy snow

We sit up and bend knees
balance out
on booted toes
Stepping deeply, keen to see
the shapes we made in
crumpled snow

There they are: our angels frozen
on their backs
in a row
Where the cheerful field should lie
an angel graveyard
in the snow.

Enjoy the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference with my my friend and local neighbor Tabatha.


  1. What a neat connection between your gift and your own book! So much to love in "A Glory" (aptly named!): "open wide, hosting the whole sky"; the description of the wings; that ending! In yours, I especially like "keen to feel the crunch as we break the perfect snow" -- I can feel it!

  2. How nice to "meet" a new-to-me poet for the new year. Enjoyed his snow angels -- and yours! Nice pairing. :)

  3. Deja vu!!

    Maybe if Garrison Keillor pick this guy up for The Writer's Almanac, more folks on this side of the pond would know his work!

  4. I don't know if this means anything to you, but I read these two poems slowly, spending time in them and with them. The imagery came alive in both. The pairing is serendipitous.

  5. Nice to hear about your connection across the pond, Heidi, and this poet, but I also loved your poem, too, that word "keen" so apt for the child telling.

  6. I had never heard of Armitage as a poet either! His poem makes a great companion to yours! You take me back to my childhood on Wold Avenue, we had a huge backyard and made fields and fields of snow angels.

  7. Great snow angel connection. I really love your poem, Heidi.

  8. Beautiful poems, both. Love the serendipitous connection.

  9. Thanks for the introduction, Heidi - wonderful poem. Like Tabatha, I fell in love with "hosting the whole sky."
    Then I was thinking, 'Wait - what poem does this poem remind me of?' - and - voila! - your wonderful poem from Pumpkin Butterfly. All makes me want to roll around in the snow. Though we don't really have snow here... ;0)

  10. Thanks for the introduction to Simon Armitage. I will be looking for more of his poetry. Love the angels - his and yours. Happy New Year! =)

  11. How beautiful to read about frozen angels. Simon Armitage. I'd be sure to look him up. :)

  12. I enjoyed your snow angels today!

  13. What a lovely pairing of winter poems, Heidi. The last sentence of Simon Armitage's poem is quite stunning -- I could see the snow angel "moving" as the sun rose, creating shadows.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!