Sunday, June 13, 2010

Armitage Week

Well, it certainly seems that this week is Simon Armitage week. Awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, he seems a little young for a poet to be receiving it. Surely his best poetry should be long behind him, and he's now being honoured for his services to, I don't know, younger poets, railway stations, animal charities etc. Not seen the citation, but imagine it's his highly imaginative and commendable work with underprivileged groups in society that has elevated him so soon; and, in the age old question of whether or not you should accept such an honour, it surely helps if you are trying to drum up more public funding/bring poetry into institutions where it is absent.

Though I don't know Armitage personally, I imagine that this is far from being the most important thing on his mind this week, as he'll be reading from his new collection "Seeing Stars" at Chetham's in Manchester on Tuesday night. A free event, open for all, it's an imaginative choice of venue, and though I've now got four distinct things on that evening, the Armitage/Chets combination will hopefully swing it and I'll make it along. If Armitage's poetry has for some time been straying from its observational roots, the new collection sees him in entirely new trajectories of prose poetry, that looks as if he's bringing his various mixed media experiments into his mainstream poetry. Of all contemporary poets, he's always seemed most attuned to the various methods that both Hughes and Auden kept their core writing fresh.

There's a World Cup on, of course, more of which later, I think, as the pre-tournament hype (excessive) is now morphing into the first round hype. England v USA drawing may well be perfectly acceptable for both sides in the long run; yet so feverish is the fever pitch round England these days, that God only knows which new levels of hysteria it will have to uncover if we actually reach or go beyond the expectations (quarter final.)

The week's other literary event is the launch of the Anthony Burgess Foundation, which has moved to a brand new premises near Oxford Road, providing, particularly at the time that Central Library has closed, a valuable new venue for literary and related events in the city. Having had the pleasure of going to the Portico Library a few weeks ago, and hearing that the refurbishment of Gaskell house on Plymouth Grove is coming along nicely, I'm getting a welcome reintroduction to the city's most venerable buildings. Perhaps the coming "age of austerity" is focusing minds on past successes. This is one kind of nostalgia I'm happy to embrace.

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