Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

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by Simon Armitage
     
 

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Nineteen days, 256 miles, and one renowned poet walking the backbone of England.
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

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Overview

Nineteen days, 256 miles, and one renowned poet walking the backbone of England.
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.”

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Starred review. [A]n ingenious idea for a journey and a brilliant idea for a book, which includes some of his poems. In this entertaining jaunt through rural Britain and unpredictable weather, part travel guide and part memoir, Armitage describes his adventures, from collie dogs growling at his heels and “mean-looking cows” to the unbridled generosity of strangers. A travel gem.”
New Yorker
“Part pilgrimage and part stunt… He writes with self-effacing humor and mixes a few of his own poems with memoir, natural history, and literary reflections… Though Armitage complains at times that the Pennine Way is an ‘unglamorous slog among soggy, lonely moors” …his account is never a slog for the reader.”
Ben Downing - The Wall Street Journal
“Never showy or excitable, his prose has a steady, phlegmatic, gently propulsive rhythm perfectly suited to the matter at hand, his sentences in tune with his feet.”
Daily Beast
“What makes Armitage’s pilgrimage special is that he attempts to fuel it on poetry alone. . . . [T]his is an adventure story, compellingly and humorously told.”
Boston Globe
“The walk is serious, but Armitage knows how to have fun along the way . . . managing a surprise ending that feels, psychically, satisfying.”
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Multi-award-winning British poet Armitage is a superb storyteller in all forms, having written novels, scripts, and an opera libretto and translated classics like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. So he seems like a natural for the travel-monolog format, which he uses to relate a 19-day, 256-mile hike down the Pennine Way (called "the backbone of England"), during which he did poetry readings in exchange for a bed each night. No moony lyricist (he's a former probations officer), Armitage offers acute, dry-eyed observations of contemporary life.
Kirkus Reviews
Award-winning poet Armitage (Poetry/Univ. of Sheffield; Seeing Stars, 2011, etc.) does what poets sometimes do: takes a walk, observes keenly and reports. In the author's case, the walk was more than a shuffle about the Lake District, but rather a long haul down the Pennine Way, more than 250 miles, and three weeks, from Scotland to his home in the Midlands. It also meant heavy weather, for "down" the Pennine Way means into the prevailing wind and rain, which, along this backbone of England, isn't to be trifled with. Though he is occasionally wry and playful, the Way is a serious ramble, capable of swallowing up travelers in the boggy mists and moorlands. Armitage plays the troubadour, giving poetry readings each night for room and board and rounds of drinks ("it's basically 256 miles of begging"). It comes as little surprise that the author studied geography, for he displays a sharp appreciation of place, both in its unique contours and its mystery--at one point, he mulls the possibility that "recollections can inhabit or cling to places…[s]o we shouldn't be surprised when we feel the atmosphere of a battleground or graveyard." Armitage is also adept at compressed expression, 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. A journey that pays dividends, both for poet-wanderer Armitage and for readers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871407436
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
03/24/2014
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
439,391
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

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