Source : The Guardian
The Huddersfield poet was praised for spinning ‘poems of emotional weight and musical grace from the fabric of our everyday lives’ by laureate Carol Ann Duffy
English poet and novelist Simon Armitage has been awarded the Queen’s gold medal for poetry for his body of work “giving voice to those rarely admitted into poetry, and extending an arm around the unheard and the dispossessed”.
The Huddersfield poet, who began writing poetry while working as a probation officer in Greater Manchester, has written 21 collections over his career, the most famous being Book of Matches, which features many poems included on the GCSE English literature syllabus. He has also translated multiple early English works including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and worked on several history documentaries for the BBC. Awarded a CBE in 2010 for his services to poetry, Armitage is currently professor of poetry at Oxford University and Leeds University, and previously at Sheffield.
The award, which was created by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then poet laureate, John Masefield, is decided by a committee headed by the laureate – currently Carol Ann Duffy, in her final year in the role. Summing up the committee’s decision, Duffy praised Armitage as “boundary-breaking”, spinning “poems of emotional weight and musical grace from the fabric of our everyday lives”.
His poems, wrote Duffy, “would challenge hypocrisy wherever they encountered it, giving voice to those rarely admitted into poetry, and extending an arm around the unheard and the dispossessed. And for all the attention to the grain and trouble of daily lives, the poems never lost sight of wider horizons: our outer space full of possibilities, the dream space of our love.”
Armitage told the Guardian he was “absolutely delighted” by the award. “When you write poems you’re not always sure they are hitting the mark. So this is incredibly flattering,” he said.
The 55-year-old poet said his parents, particularly his father, had been emotional at the news of his medal, which he will receive at a ceremony with the queen in 2019. “The only shame is that it didn’t come before Christmas,” he said, “or I’d have put the medal on top of the tree.”
Armitage said he felt the face of poetry was changing in Britain, particularly the role of poet laureate; the 400-year-old title has, in modern times, transformed into a public engagement role and is once again up for grabs, with Duffy’s tenure ending in 2019 after a decade in the role. “In decades and centuries gone by, the laureate role was a more remote and aloof position, but the world has changed and poetry has changed with it,” Armitage said. “In comparison with other countries, in Britain there is a common reader for poetry. There are opportunities to write poetry about topical events and people still have a place for poetry in their hearts and minds.”
Previous recipients of the queen’s medal include Philip Larkin, Siegfried Sassoon, Imtiaz Dharker and WH Auden, a prestigious cohort Armitage said he felt honoured to join: “I think if that strangeness ever goes away, you’re finished as a writer. If you stop being bewildered by whatever recognition comes your way. Seeing your name on that list, it is humbling.”