O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

Simon Says, Ha!

Meave Haughey visits the Ledbury Poetry Festival and takes a particular shine to Simon Armitage

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Meave Haughey, for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2015
Somehow I'd imagined a classic Harrington. This slightly crumpled navy blue number seems too ill fitting for poetry royalty

If Simon Armitage could choose a theme tune, it wouldn’t be ‘Hitler’s Only Got One Ball’. We know this because he’s just stopped reading and cocked an ear as an ice cream van runs circles round the carpark outside his reading. He supposes, he tells the large and mostly grey audience, it might be his protester -- the last time he read at Ledbury Poetry Festival a woman appeared with a placard. ‘It made me feel radical’ he says.

I’m not sure how radical you can be when you’ve just been named Oxford Professor of Poetry. To investigate, I’m following Simon Armitage round Ledbury town centre, to see if he takes radical actions or just goes to the pub. Last time i followed a poet here, he went to the pub. I did too. I’m also curious about Simon Armitage’s suit jacket. It throws me. Somehow I’d imagined a classic Harrington. This slightly crumpled navy blue number seems too ill fitting for poetry royalty. Anyway, here I am not very casually browsing New Korean Poetry while Simon Armitage has a short conversation with the bookshop staff. ‘I’m sorry’, he says, clearly embarrassed, ‘it was the other bookshop’. I look round. No Simon Armitage books on obvious display. Hmm.

Back in the community hall, they turn off the air conditioning and a woman approaches the stage. She introduces him clumsily, admitting that she hasn’t read the book but that she heard him speak on Radio 4. My fears of dying of heat exhaustion in the midst of an aging provincial audience are intensifying. But, he doesn’t disappoint. He’s dry, engaging, and can take you from laughter to stillness in an instant. His poetry and stories are beautiful and rich. He is clearly someone who delights in language. It may take many more miles of trailing him before i have the faintest clue how he does it.

simon armitage, here
the ledbury poetry festival, there

see more stories from outsideleft's Fiction & Poetry archive »»

Meave Haughey

Meave Haughey is a writer and artist and can mostly be found living out an elaborate alternative life while doing the laundry. Oh and pubishing episodics at her blog Worth the Coming Home.

years end

more stories you really could read...

thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...

sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Why Is There an Old Man in the Garage Shouting About 'Wolverines'?
Reader, Be Warned: I am one of those die-hard Fall fans that you may have read about. I know that the E in Mark E. Smith stands for Edward and can catch the references to his personal life and back catalogue in the spider web vocabulary in his songs...
Claremont Road #2 - Sued For Slush
Ever Fallen In Love, In Love With Someone, Ever Fallen In Love, In Love with Someone You Should've Fallen in Love With? Paul H's insights into squatting in East London take a romantic turn
Alex Chilton Dead
Musical legend and one of the greatest songwriters ever bites the dust
Happy Shopper #17: Ice Cream Man
Ice Cream Man travels from coast to coast giving away ice cream. It isn't easy being loved...
Hair & Make-Up: Das Boat! The House of Boateng
After one episode of the House of Boateng, we're hemmed in for the season.
Happy Shopper #37: Garazi
Fabulous fashion photographer Garazi puts down her lens for long enough to show us how to shop!
Some of our favorite things...