Simon Armitage has today been appointed as the new Poet Laureate in the UK. The post is a 10-year term, running until 2029. He succeeds Carol Ann Duffy who completed her tenure in the post on 1 May 2019.
There has been a Poet Laureate in the UK consistently since John Dryden in 1668. Previous incumbents have included William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Masefield and John Betjeman. Before Dryden, a number of other poets had also sometimes held the post of Laureate, including Geoffrey Chaucer and Ben Jonson. Following the death of Ted Hughes in 1998, what had previously been a life-time appointment became a 10-year term.
One of the best-known poets in the UK, Simon Armitage is based in Yorkshire. His appointment as Laureate comes just as he completes his 4-year term as Oxford Professor of Poetry. His work has featured on the National Curriculum for many years, with poems such as ‘I am Very Bothered’ about teenage love and a Bunsen burner in a school chemistry lab.
Armitage is the award-winning author of eleven poetry collections. His first full collection, Zoom (1989) was written while Armitage was still working as a probation officer, and it made an immediate impact, winning a place on the Whitbread Prize shortlist. Collections that followed included Kid (1999), Seeing Stars (2010), The Unaccompanied (2017) and his latest, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, to be published on 16 May 2019 – which is a collection of works from a wide range of public projects, commissions, collaborations, residencies and events, on subjects reflecting interests from music and the media, to travel and the environment.
Other books include an acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007), two novels and non-fiction bestsellers such as Walking Home (2013) and Walking Away (2015) chronicling his long troubadour journeys across the UK.
Armitage has also written extensively for radio, television, film and stage plays, including The Last Days of Troy, which premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in June 2014. He wrote a libretto for an opera The Assassin Tree, based on a Greek myth recounted in The Golden Bough. His radio play Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster (2011) was short-listed for the Ted Hughes Award and adapted for stage and screen.
Judith Palmer, Director of The Poetry Society said “Throughout his career, Simon Armitage has brilliantly demonstrated his skills as a public poet, engaging with topical subjects and everyday concerns, and always finding innovative ways to engage a wider community. Critically acclaimed by his fellow poets, his work has already touched the lives of millions, and deservedly now will be discovered by many more. He’ll make an excellent Poet Laureate, and we look forward to supporting him in his new role.’
The Poetry Society was represented on the steering committee appointed by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright to advise on the selection of the new Laureate. The appointment is approved by HM The Queen acting on the advice of Her Majesty’s Government. The post of Poet Laureate is an honorary position, has no set job description and carries no requirements to write about Royal events.
In November 2018 The Poetry Society completed a survey of its members, asking opinions on the new appointment. From 114 poets mentioned for consideration, Simon Armitage emerged as the overwhelming favourite. Since 2009, The Poetry Society has provided administrative support for the Poet Laureate.
Read ‘Unseasonal Produce’, a lecture by Simon Armitage published in The Poetry Review, Winter 2018
10 May 2019