The event was sold out. We got free wine.
There was a very short introduction from an official of the library whom I did not recognise, which shows how long it is since I was there.
Valerie and I were sitting next to David Coldwell, whom I remembered from a poetry reading in Marsden in 2013. We bought a copy of his pamphlet, ‘Flowers by the Road’, published by http://www.templarpoetry.com.
The so-called New Room at The Leeds Library is about 137 years old. It contains travel, biography, history, and poetry books, many of which are very old. A small stage had been prepared. All the lights were turned off, apart from two, white with a tinge of blue, which shone onto the stage. Simon Armitage emerged like a Dickensian ghost.
He read from his collection, ‘The Unaccompanied’. He said he was going to read for about 35 minutes, then take questions, and then finish with a couple more poems. This he proceeded to do.
Thank You For Waiting is a poem about social hierarchy and the human condition. At a performance event featuring its author, it read beautifully. After about 10 lines, I thought, ‘I wish I had written this.’ After about 40 lines, I wasn’t thinking anything, because I was too absorbed in enjoying the poem.
He read this piece immediately upon his arrival on stage. All the subsequent pieces were preceded by what I would consider to be lengthy preambles. It is a testament to Simon Armitage’s magnetism, and the quality and depth of his work, that these preambles were not irritating. He observed the universal principle that the preamble must be recognisably shorter than the piece it accompanies, and he also observed the principle, in this era, attributable to Char March, that any preamble should have as much literary merit and human interest as the piece it accompanies.
He read a piece about Robert Maudsley, the serial killer, imprisoned for at least part of his sentence in HMP Wakefield.
He read a piece called To-Do List, which features bullet points (and, in the title of which, I think the hyphen is significant).
I was too busily engaged in enjoying the reading to make notes about which pieces were read, and for what reason.
There is undoubtedly a schism between page poets and performance poets. Within the confines of this sectarian rivalry, I am a performance poet.
Going by his publication and prize-winning record, you would say that Simon Armitage is a page poet. He is published by Faber & Faber.
What I heard at The Leeds Library was a reading that transcended the difference between page poetry and performance poetry. Simon Armitage demonstrated that, if you are in control of the language you use, if you have real insight into your subject matter, if you have mastered form and technique, then you can do just about anything you want.
While he was doing all this, he managed to sublimate the experiences he had while he was a probation officer in Manchester, and transcend the fact that he has a Kirklees accent.
Simon Armitage is twenty times a better poet than Ted Hughes.