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… poems by the extraordinary Simon Armitage …

Interesting Literature

The best poems by Simon Armitage

Since his debut collection, Zoom!, appeared in 1989 when he was still in his mid-twenties, Simon Armitage has become one of the most feted, read, and studied contemporary English poets. His work combines wry colloquialism and humour with frequent poignancy, treating such perennial subjects as death, violence, and lost love with directness and wit. Below we’ve chosen ten of Simon Armitage’s best poems, though of course, any list is bound to be subjective to an extent. We’ve also been restricted a little by what Armitage poems have already been reproduced online elsewhere. But the ten poems below are all well worth reading, we maintain.

Poem’. People are complicated, and are often jumbles of contradictions, mixing good and bad elements. This is the essence of this understated poem by Armitage – understated to the point that it has a sort of ‘anti-title’…

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Cotton Nero A.x

Cotton_Nero_Ax_EBook

The works of the Pearl-Poet,
re-transcribed, re-traced, re-believed,
consisting of the following poems:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (David Hadbawnik)

Pearl (Daniel C. Remein)

Tidy (Chris Piuma)

Patience (Lisa Ampleman)

 

 

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Thoughts on Diamonds

Diamond 1Diamond 2Diamond 3Diamond 4

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Delit þe Lombe for to deuise

Wyth much meruayle in mynde went

Best wat3 he blyþest and moste to pryse

Þat euer I herde of speche spent

So worþly whyt wern wede3 hys

His loke3 symple, hymself so gent

Bot a wounde ful wyde and weete con wyse

Anende hys hert þur3 hyde torente

Of his quyte syde his blod outsprent

Alas, þo3t I, who did þat spyt

Ani breste for bale a3t haf forbrent

Er he þerto hade had delyt

AgnusDei

To devise such delight the Lamb

went with much marvel in mind.

Best was he, happiest, and most to praise,

that ever I heard of in speech that was spent.

So worthily white were his clothes –

his looks simple, himself so noble.

But a very wide and wet wound could be seen

near his heart, torn through his skin.

From his white side his blood sprayed out.[i]

Alas, I thought, who did that spiteful deed?[ii]

Any breast for sorrow ought to have broken

before he had any delight from that.

(trans. Jane Beal)

[i]  This wound has its direct parallel in the piercing of Christ’s side on the cross.

[ii] It is significant that the Dreamer phrases this line as a question.  According to the gospels, historically, Christ’s side was pierced by a Roman soldier, but spiritually, according to Church doctrine, Christ’s sufferings on the Cross were caused by the sinful deeds of all humanity.

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t_s_eliot-still_point

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THE POETRY PLACE

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the…

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Deep roots, high branches

SANCTUARY POET

mt120-winter-2016 My poem, “The Tree of Your Life,” now appears in Midwifery Today 120 (Winter 2016), 4.

POEM: 

The tree of your life
has deep roots in the earth
and branches sky-high:

like a mother’s placenta
imprinted dark red
on a white piece of paper –
like da Vinci’s Renaissance drawings of man:
a microcosm in the macrocosm
of the universe –
like an ancient parable of a mustard seed
that springs up into eternity
where souls, like birds, find their home.

Every green leaf of your tree
holds the veins of memory,
open and thriving with sap:

so that even when the leaf ages in autumn,
turns red, then golden, then brown,
and falls, crackling under careless feet,
a powerful wind comes and carries away
the precious molecules of your tree-dust,
in which every cell holds the DNA
of the past that fertilizes the future
and the new seeds, the…

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