Simon Armitage

Sarah BrealeyUEA Literary FestivalSarah Brealey

UEA Literary Festival

'Sometimes you are trying to ambush yourself as a writer,' says Simon Armitage, 'trying to find ways that are new and different to say the same old things.'

The Huddersfield poet told his audience in Norwich about finding new and different ways. His latest collection, Seeing Stars, does different, with poems that fill a page as if they were prose.

Around 450 people heard him read from Seeing Stars, in what was both the last and the most popular event in the literary festival at the UEA.

The reading started with The Christening, the poem which begins 'I am a sperm whale.' The line 'I have a brain the size of a basketball and on that basis alone I am entitled to my opinions,' was one of many that drew laughter. The poem ends: 'Stuff comes blurting out,' which, Armitage said, 'could be the title for this book'.

In conversation with Lavinia Greenlaw, professor of creative writing at UEA, Armitage said that humour, like violence, is a kind of bridge between writer and reader. He added: 'I have always been a bit crude... Was it Emerson who said, 'Think with the wise, speak with the vulgar'? As a poet you are automatically signing yourself up to the awkward squad.'

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We also learned that each poem takes about two months to write, and that shorter ones take longer. And that perhaps it is all an elaborate revenge against the junior school teacher who, having promised to put the class's best six poems on the wall, did not display the 10-year-old Simon's first poetic effort.

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