Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 05 June 2017

  • from Still

    Between two monarchs bitter feuds are commonplace
    And swarms are never slow to mobilise.
    From miles away you’ll sense them massing for battle,
    You’ll sense an appetite for hostilities, a violent thirst.
    Cowards and dawdlers are dragooned into action.
    Sounding the war-conch with droning wings
    They stream into the breach, fizzing with fury,
    Nerves set like wires, venomous bayonets fixed.
    Back as far as their sovereign’s chamber
    They’ll defend and engage, resolved to kill or die.
    Or out of the blue yonder into the field
    They’ll pour from the hive, countless as rain.

    by Simon Armitage


    The Poetry Centre would be delighted to see you at ‘moments/that stretch horizons’: an international poetry symposium for practitioners, a collaboration between the Poetry Centre, the University of Reading, and the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) at the University of Canberra. We will explore one theme current in contemporary writing: poetry about the environment, and two concerns of poetics: prose poetry and the lyric and poetry and publishing. Each panel set up to discuss these issues will be composed of a mixture of UK-based academics and writers and academics/poets from IPSI. The symposium will take place at Oxford Brookes University, and places are limited. Tickets for the day (including refreshments and lunch) cost £10 (£7.50 for postgraduates). All poets, critics, and readers of poetry are welcome, and you can sign up here.

    The Poetry Centre recently launched the Oxford Brookes 2017 International Poetry Competition, which is judged this year by award-winning poet Helen Mort. Poems are welcomed from writers of 18 years or over in the following two categories: English as an Additional Language and Open category. First Prize in both categories is £1000, with £200 for Second. The competition is open for submissions until 11pm GMT on 28 August 2017. Visit our website for more details.

    This excerpt from Still is copyright © Simon Armitage, 2016, and reprinted by permission of Enitharmon Books.

    Notes from Enitharmon:

    Still is a sequence of poems in response to panoramic photographs of battlefields associated with the Battle of the Somme. Chosen from archives at Imperial War Museum, these astonishingly clear photographic images are ahead of their time. Still is published on the centenary of the battle, which is considered to be one of the bloodiest in British military history. Consequently, Armitage’s thirty poems are versions of the infamously tense Georgics by the Roman poet Virgil. The contemporary words meld with the visual devastations of war to haunting effect.

    Designed by Praline Design Studio and published by Enitharmon Press and the Imperial War Museums, Still is an 74pp large-scale landscape publication with introductory texts, contemporary maps, fold-outs and decorated endpapers. You can find out more about the book on the Enitharmon website.

    Simon Armitage lives in Yorkshire, has taught at universities in this country and the United States, and is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. He has published eleven full-length collections of poetry, including Selected Poems and Seeing Stars, as well as notable translations of medieval verse such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Death of King Arthur and, most recently, Pearl, which won the 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He has published two novels and four works of non-fiction; Walking Home – the prose account of his walk along the Pennine Way as a latter-day troubadour was a SundayTimes bestseller. Armitage also writes extensively for radio, television and film, is a regular broadcaster and presenter with the BBC, is the lyricist and singer with the band The Scaremongers, and has written several theatre pieces including dramatisations of both the Odyssey and the Iliad. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes such as the Keats-Shelley Prize and the Cholmondeley Award, and in 2010 was honoured with the CBE for services to poetry. He is currently the Oxford University Professor of Poetry, and you can hear recordings of his recent lectures on the Oxford University website. You can also read more about Armitage’s work on his website

    ‘William Blake dreamed up the original Enitharmon as one of his inspiriting, good, female daemons, and his own spirit as a poet-artist, printer-publisher still lives in the press which bears the name of his creation. Enitharmon is a rare and wonderful phenomenon, a press where books are shaped into artefacts of lovely handiwork as well as communicators of words and worlds. The writers and the artists published here over the last forty-five years represent a truly historic gathering of individuals with an original vision and an original voice, but the energy is not retrospective: it is growing and new ideas enrich the list year by year. Like an ecologist who manages to restock the meadows with a nearly vanished species of wild flower or brings a rare pair of birds back to found a colony, this publisher has dedicatedly and brilliantly made a success of that sharply endangered species, the independent press.’ (Marina Warner.)  

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    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.