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Next Issue Meet Michael Edwards at the Brasserie Lipp David Herman reads Milosz's life Sumita Chakraborty's five poems Judith Wilson's encounter with Giovanni Pascoli Simon Armitage revives Branwell Bronte

This review is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

ON THE PHONE Simon Armitage, Kid (Faber and Faber) £4.99 pb

Simon Armitage's first collection ZOOM! won its author wide critical acclaim as one of the most exciting new voices of English poetry. Armitage's own remarks about wishing to be 'popular without being stupid, intelligent without being stuffy' are both less hyperbolic and considerably nearer the truth about a poetry that has yet to move very far from its Northern roots and, indeed, displays no wish to do so. ZOOM! was notable for its harnessing of the energies, exaggerations and misalliances of everyday speech, its strong narrative drive and its sense of community. Its very first line, 'Heard the one about the guy from Heaton Mersey?', signposted all those things as well as a lively accessibility. Kid's opening words are 'Which reminds me' which is another form of the same invitation; its last are 'That was everything'. The two phrases again highlight the casual and colloquial aspects of Armitage's style. They also suggest a structure but it is the open structure of the 'poem as telephone conversation' of Frank O'Hara, a poet to whom Armitage paid homage in 'Poem (Frank O'Hara Was Open On The Desk)'.

O'Hara is a useful model for a poetry that aims for inclusiveness not just in terms of subject matter but of different moods within the same poem. As the narrator of 'Gooseberry Season' puts it:
 
Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the
   shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever ...


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