Simon Armitage: Former University of Portsmouth student has been named the UK’s new Poet Laureate

A former University of Portsmouth student has been named the UK’s newest Poet Laureate.

Sunday, 12th May 2019, 2:21 pm
Updated Monday, 13th May 2019, 3:50 pm
Simon Armitage has been announced as the UK's new Poet Laureate. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Simon Armitage, succeeds Dame Carol Ann Duffy in the post, said he wants to ‘help poetry explore its potential’ in a multi-media age.

He studied in Portsmouth back when the university was a polytechnic and has spoken about how the city has inspired his work.

Mr Armitage’s 10 year appointment as Poet Laureate has been approved by The Queen.

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Simon studied geography at Portsmouth university when it was a polytechnic. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

It is up to the poet to decide whether or not to produce poetry for national occasions or royal events.

And Mr Armitage said he hopes ‘to build on the work of my predecessors with energy and enthusiasm’, promoting poetry, especially within education, and young talent.

He was born in Marsden, West Yorkshire, and ‘followed my heart’ when he decided to move all the way down to the South Coast to study geography in Portsmouth.

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Simon has been given a honorary doctorate by the University of Portsmouth. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Mr Armitage, who lived in Southsea as a student, has spoken in the past about how his time in the city has influenced his work.

He said: ‘Writing and reading was always a secret passion.

;I certainly wrote quite a few poems about the city and my experience of being here.

‘I think it helped me to be on my own, a little bit.

‘It concentrates the mind when you are so far away from everything you know and understand and I think I was a more resilient person when I left here.

Mr Armitage has published 28 collections of poetry and his work is studied by children as part of the national curriculum.

He said: ‘I have been back a few times (to Portsmouth). I used to give a GCSE reading here most years in the Guildhall, which was weird because that is where I went for my degree ceremony.

‘But I certainly haven’t ventured into Southsea where I used to live.’

Mr Armitage has also been given an honorary doctorate by the University of Portsmouth.

The university’s centre for studies in literature has congratulated him on being named Poet Laureate.

They tweeted: ‘Congratulations to UoP alumnus Simon Armitage on becoming the UK's new Poet Laureate.’

He worked as a probation officer in Greater Manchester until 1994 before focusing on poetry

He is a professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and now becomes the 21st UK Poet Laureate.

‘Since the laureateship was first conceived many hundreds of years ago Britain has changed enormously and the position of Poet Laureate has changed accordingly,’ he said.

‘I want to celebrate and speak on behalf of the variety of voices who contribute to the rich chorus of British poetry from a wide range of personal, literary and cultural experiences, and to help poetry explore its potential in a multi-faceted, multi-vocal and multi-media age.

‘The poetry of these islands is one of our greatest achievements, and as well as being proud of its traditions I want poetry to feel confident and at home in the contemporary world and to demonstrate that in a hectic and sometimes frenetic age the combination of considered thought and crafted language is more relevant and vital than ever.

‘I hope poets, readers and audiences will support me in my efforts.’

Mr Armitage received The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2018, awarded for excellence in poetry, on the basis of his body of work.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: ‘Simon Armitage is one of the UK's foremost poets, whose witty and profound take on modern life is known and respected across the world.

‘He has done so much to promote poetry, and I am sure he will use the Laureateship to continue this work.’

The UK's first Poet Laureate by royal appointment was John Dryden who was given the title by King Charles II in 1668.

Previous Poet Laureates have included William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Betjeman and Ted Hughes.

UK Poet Laureates initially served until their death until the rules were changed in 1999.