Poetry Collections


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Poetry Collections

maaliskuu 25, 8:33 pm

Simon Armitage - Kid
How do you evaluate a collection of poems? Perhaps rate each poem and then work out some sort of average, but what about the individual poems that really grab you, how do these effect your evaluation of the collection as a whole. Rating a collection of poems is similar to trying to come to some conclusion when considering a collection of short stories: there are usually some that you like more than others, but if you work with averages they are likely to lower your overall rating. You will probably never be able to rate a collection 5 out of 5. Simon Armitage's Kid is a collection of 47 poems and I found six of them that I rated at 5, but there were many that just bubbled under at 4, however when I read these again I found that I liked some of them as much as I liked those that I had rated as 5.

I do not read poems in the same way as I read novels or stories. I like to give them time, to sit with them for a little. I always read them at least three times each and usually no more than 3/4 at one sitting. In literature classes in school, poems can be analysed in great depth, I tend not to do this now, hoping that my experience in reading will be enough to appreciate the poem in some way or another. It is easier these days with google to hand, to look up references or the meaning of words and I usually take the time to do this. I have got out of the habit of reading collections of contemporary poetry and now realise the difficulty in writing about them.

Kid was published in 1992 and it was Armitage's second collection. His first collection Zoom had been a great success and since those early days he has succeeded in becoming the poet laureate. There is great variety in this collection, but some general themes do emerge. The poems are rooted in working class life in Northern England. Many of them tell individual stories of the quotidian of daily life, relationship problems, loutish behaviour, they can be amusing and witty, but they do not look up to the wealthy classes or down to the people in poverty. Many of them are right on target they seem to hit the right note. Another theme is that they can suddenly become quite strange, they can throw the reader a curve. Apart from the Robinson poems (more later) they are not difficult to understand, no obscure references, but this does not mean that they do not puzzle the reader or make him think as to where the poet has been heading. Many of the poems are in free verse, but there are some end and internal rhymes and they look and feel like poems, they are good to read aloud.

Armitage loves a metaphor and sometimes these feel more like clichés or platitudes. I am sure that the poet is having fun with these. The poem 'Judge Chutney's final summary' piles up one metaphor on top of another: the thread of a story, thrown the wheat out with the chaff, and then he mixes the metaphors; winnowed a baby from its bath, hauled in a line of enquiry, letting the tail fit the punishment. There is a poem titled 'Never mind the quality' and the first line reads feel the width. This poem is typical of many it tells of a woman scraping wallpaper in preparation for decorating a room. She luckily manages to grab an end and the whole lot comes off the wall in one piece ;

then took it in hand
and simply she used
her own weight, leant right out
like a wind-surfer rounding
the tip of Cape Horn
and it came
and kept coming, breathtaking,
like a seam of ore
through an unclaimed mountain -
from the skirting board
to the picture rail
from the door frame
to the bay window.

The woman becomes a celebratory in the town, stories are told, the wallpaper gets bigger, the menfolk have to take over the household chores while the women chat about the event.

The mysterious figure of Robinson appears in several poems. He is a ghost like observer, not quite real and is introduced in the poem 'Looking for Weldon Kees' This is where Google comes in handy as Weldon Kees was a cult figure in the world of poetry. A Californian poet who disappeared leaving his shoes on the Golden Gate Bridge. He wrote a series of poems featuring Robinson a displaced ghost of a person in modern society; a twilight figure, Armitage takes up this theme with his series featuring Robinson.

Armitage writes poems about a gang of thieves operating at a football match (Brassneck). A couple having to live with their in-laws (Wintering Out). A young girl who cannot remove an irritant in her eye (At Sea), Kid the title poem is the story of Robin dumping Batman because he wants to grow up. These poems are based in realism, but more often than not squirm away into something more mysterious. I love the poem simply entitled Song which has the theme of 'the way of things in the natural world.' Armitage can write beautifully about the natural world and man's place in it.

Lets forget about all those complications of working out ratings for this collection and give it 5 stars and finish with another great poem.

Speaking Terms

This is not the blanket of night,
It is a poor advert for it.

Through the action of the wind
The clouds appear slashed, longwise,
into rough black shapes, like the remnants
of a poster stripped from a window.

We must be driving west because
the furthest hilltop cuts a broken line
against the fading light. Picturesque,
a talking point, except

words being what they are
we wouldn't want to loose the only sense
we can share in: silence.
I could say the clouds

are the action of our day
stopped here to evidence
the last four hundred miles
like a mobile, hardly moving.

But I ask you the time
and you tell me, in one word, precisely.