Seeing Stars

Seeing Stars

by Simon Armitage
     
 

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A thrilling new collection from the hugely acclaimed British poet Simon Armitage. With its vivid array of dramatic monologues, allegories, and tall tales, this absurdist, unreal exploration of modern society brings us a chorus of unique and unforgettable voices.

All are welcome at this twilit, visionary carnival: the man whose wife drapes a border-curtain

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Overview

A thrilling new collection from the hugely acclaimed British poet Simon Armitage. With its vivid array of dramatic monologues, allegories, and tall tales, this absurdist, unreal exploration of modern society brings us a chorus of unique and unforgettable voices.

All are welcome at this twilit, visionary carnival: the man whose wife drapes a border-curtain across the middle of the marital home; the black bear with a dark secret; the woman who oversees giant snowballs in the freezer. “My girlfriend won me in a sealed auction but wouldn’t / tell me how much she bid,” begins one speaker; “I hadn’t meant to go grave robbing with Richard Dawkins / but he can be very persuasive,” another tells us. The storyteller behind this human tapestry has about him a sly undercover idealism: he shares with many of his characters a stargazing capacity for belief, or for being, at the very least, entirely “genuine in his disbelief.” In these startling poems, with their unique cartoon-strip energy and air of misrule, Armitage creates world after world, peculiar and always particular, where the only certainty is the unexpected.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
British poet Armitage (Forward Prize winner) sets up an absurd situation then tells a story about it. The resulting prose poems assume a pleasing energy brought on by the rush of language. Armitage pumps up his lines with figures of sound, synesthesia, and silliness, as well as the occasional metaphor. His latest collection concerns an alternate universe where clichés become the ideas that inspired them. These are cartoonlike poems that discuss phrases such as "SPELL IT OUT," or "I want some space." One soon learns that very little makes sense in Armitage's world. In the title poem, someone, hit over the head because his remarks are misinterpreted, literally travels to outer space and sees planets and stars. Another poem, "The Christening," parodies this religious act in middle-school fashion and plays on the name "sperm whale." One can almost visualize poems like "Knowing What We Know Now," about the opportunity to grow younger, this one presented by an elf—probably one of the Rice Krispies triplets. VERDICT Playful, irreverent, and sometimes irrelevant, the poems can catch one up in their energetic whoosh of words.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
Dana Jennings
Mr. Armitage spins out surreal satires sharpened by his wicked wit…His irreverence is a bracing antidote to just about any edition of the evening news…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Armitage, the author of many books of poetry and prose, is among Britain’s most popular poets (and poets are actually a bit famous over there), though this is only his second individual collection to appear in the U.S. (there was a slim selected volume called The Shout). It’s about time we started seeing his work: Armitage is drily funny, clever, technically adept, and dark, but not too dark. The prose poems forming this new book resemble nothing so much as the recent work of the American poet James Tate, though they’re not quite as wacky. In little prose stories and dramatic monologues, Armitage manages to touch on everything from the concerns of the sperm whale (“Don’t be taken in by the dolphins and their winning smiles, they are the pickpockets of the ocean”) to “the ruins of sex” and ill-conceived ventures like “Cheeses of Nazareth (“I fear for the long-term commercial viability of the new Christian cheese shop in our neighborhood”). The moral of all of these fables might be “don’t get your hopes up,” although Armitage does let a glimmer of light show through here and there, albeit at an odd angle, as when a married couple draw a curtain in the middle of their house, dividing them for life while simultaneously keeping them “inseparable and betrothed.” (Aug.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307594839
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/02/2011
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

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Meet the Author

Simon Armitage was born in and lives in West Yorkshire, England. His twelve previous titles include Killing Time, Selected Poems, The Universal Home Doctor, Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid, and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In 1993, he was named the London Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year; he is the recipient of a Forward Prize and in 2010 won the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster, and playwright; writes extensively for radio, television, and film; has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop; and is professor of poetry at the University of Sheffield.

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