Synopses & Reviews
The wandering poet has always been a feature of our cultural imagination. Odysseus journeys home, his famous flair for storytelling seducing friend and foe. The Romantic poets tramped all over the Lake District searching for inspiration. Now Simon Armitage, with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation, as well as a wry humor all his own, has taken on Britain's version of our Appalachian Trail: the Pennine Way. Walking "the backbone of England" by day (accompanied by friends, family, strangers, dogs, the unpredictable English weather, and a backpack full of Mars Bars), each evening he gives a poetry reading in a different village in exchange for a bed. Armitage reflects on the inextricable link between freedom and fear as well as the poet's place in our bustling world. In Armitage's own words, "to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up a challenge against the self."
"In the summer of 2010, award-winning poet Armitage decided to embrace the life of his forebears and take up the life at least for a short while of a wandering poet. Over 19 days, he resolutely, and mostly joylessly, marched along the Pennine Way in England, a 256-mile long 'gantry running down the backbone of the country offering countless possibilities for perspectives and encounters' with new territories and new people. Terrified of loneliness, dogs, and weirdoes that he might meet along the way, Armitage trades his mess of pottage his poetry for a bed every night along the path, and before he sets out he makes arrangements to give poetry readings at various stops. In Uswayford, he reads in a lounge bar where every machine in the background hums to life, and where 'in the presence of the spoken word, the scrape of the knife against plate or the opening of a packet of salted peanuts are nuclear explosions.' As Armitage readily admits, 'the Pennine Way is a pointless exercise, leading from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular... but to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up the challenge against the self.' It's too bad that reading Armitage's dreary, cheerless, and pointless memoir leads from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, offering little insight either into his own journey, his life as a poet, or the ways that the walk challenged his life or his self-understanding. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[Armitage] displays a sharp appreciation of place, both in its unique contours and its mystery…doling out small stories — about the people he walks with or the history of the landscape, the misery of midges or the terror of a deep fog high in the Uplands — that flash like sun on chrome." Kirkus Reviews
Nineteen days, 256 miles, and one renowned poet walking the backbone of England.
About the Author
Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet who has published ten volumes of poetry and translations of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur. He is professor of poetry at the University of Sheffield, England.