Wednesday 21st October saw one of the most prolific and successful Northern poets of our time take the stage at the Chester Literature Festival. Huddersfield born Simon Armitage brought his authentic yet ethereal wordplay to Chester Town Hall, ready to discuss his new book, “Walking Away”. After penning “Walking Home” when he walked the Pennine Way a few years ago, this time Armitage tackled a section of the South West Coastal Path which took him from Minehead to Land’s End.
Reading sections from the most memorable days of his journey (where he existed on donations in a sock, troubadour-style) Armitage delighted the packed out crowd with the weird and wonderful places where he was asked to perform his work throughout the tour. One such location was a Yurt-style building with a fatal flaw: no hole in the ceiling for the fireplace’s smoke to escape from. The crowd ran gasping at the end of the reading, both too polite and too enthralled to leave beforehand.
Armitage admitted that his non-fiction journey did not produce a great deal of poetry, owing largely to the fact that one cannot let their mind wander when they’re walking along a sheer cliff face. Nevertheless, there were some gems to be found, as Armitage read a verse in which he tried to connect with the sea, his constant companion for three weeks on the walk. As always, his poetry seemed effortless in its complexity of thoughts, language and imagery.
At the end of his reading there were several enthusiastic questions from fans, which Armitage fielded with good grace. He spoke of the major influence on his teenage self, and indeed the reason he became interested in poetry, the great Ted Hughes, and how Hughes’s work and teachings had guided him through his own life. When asked the tricky question of how long it takes him to write a poem, Armitage dropped a random amount of time in deadpan wit, before elaborating on the variety and unpredictability of the process.
Find out more about the Chester Literature Festival at: http://chesterperforms.com/literature/events/