A reading of one of his best poems
Everything about ‘Poem’ by Simon Armitage is understated. It opens with a casual ‘And’ (‘And if it snowed’), as if merely a continuation of something already in progress. It has an ‘anti-title’ which refuses to comment on the content of the poem that follows. (Armitage is fond of using such titles.) Its lines are all end-stopped with a full stop, suggesting a flatness of expression. Yet there is more to it than might first meet the eye. In this post, we’re going to offer some words towards an analysis of Armitage’s ‘Poem’, which you can read here.
‘Poem’ is a sort of obituary for an anonymous man – we know it’s an obituary because he is referred to in the past tense and is being ‘rated’ by people at the end of the poem, as if they are seeking to assess his whole life. The poem notes the different sides to the man’s personality. The fourth, eighth, and twelfth lines provide an insight into the darker and less pleasant side of the man, while the rest of the poem – or those first twelve lines, anyway – describe the good things he did. When it snowed, he would go out with a spade and clear the driveway. He was an attentive father, tucking his daughter up in bed every night. His daughter was clearly a good child, as she only ever lied ‘one time’, we are told; but he beat her with a slipper for this single transgression.