Date Archives January 2019

Armitage achieves top Marx

Simon Armitage

My favourite poem by Simon Armitage is currently It Ain’t What You Do It’s What It Does To You. I say ‘currently’ because I’ll probably change my mind when I read his collection Seeing Stars again.

In the poem, he couples three impressive things he has not done with three seemingly very ordinary things he has done. Armitage has described the poem as a ‘rant’, but it is a beautiful rant and one that reminds me of the perennial chip on my own shoulder.

In the final stanza, he writes of ‘the tiny cascading sensation/somewhere inside us’ and then, as with the three previous comparisons, he returns to the ordinary with the unnecessary clarification ‘That feeling, I mean.’ It’s as if he’s saying, ‘This is how people like me should talk,’ having spent the best part of five stanzas demonstrating how language and the meaning we invest in particular moments can at least briefly elevate us above the realities of class.

Reading the above three paragraphs back to myself makes me wonder whether I should apply to be poetry editor at The Morning Star. Or perhaps I should just keep reading Armitage’s work and enjoy his talent.

Singing in the shower

Happy New Year! Let’s talk about self-esteem!

Bo Burnham’s film Eighth Grade is, in his own words, ‘a story about a shy girl making YouTube videos.’ He wanted to ‘tell a story about someone on the internet that nobody’s watching.’ Hey Bo, make a film about me! Make a film about the films that I make that no is watching! Bo…?

I was speaking with a friend recently about pursuing passions as not just a means to make the daily grind more bearable, but also to restore a sense of self. Kurt Vonnegut phrased what I was trying to say much better than I ever could, though replace ‘an art’ with ‘a hobby you are tremendously keen on yet have been postponing for years’:

‘Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward…’

As Burnham has said, 99.9% of videos posted on YouTube don’t get spoken about, they don’t become viral like his did. There are millions of people creating videos and doing things they enjoy without the promise of mass acclaim. I think they’re simply being honest with themselves. So, don’t be shy, dance like no one’s watching…and film it if you want to.