‘Poetry is not one thing but many, and long may that be the case – but the illusive golden standard remains an intensified version of language that offers the best opportunity for reflection and scrutiny while being ingeniously clear, effortlessly fluent, powerfully communicative, successful in its intentions, aware of its causes and effects, wide in entreaty and glorious in consequence.’
A Vertical Art gathers the expansive and spirited public lectures delivered by Simon Armitage during his acclaimed four-year tenure as Oxford University Professor of Poetry. Armitage tries to identify a ‘common sense’ approach to an artform that can lend itself to grand statements and vacuous gestures, questioning both the facile and obscure ends of the poetry spectrum, asserting certain fundamental qualities that separate the genre from near-neighbours such as prose and song lyrics, examining who poetry is written for and its values and use in contemporary society.
Above all, these are personal essays that enquire into the volatile and disputed definitions of poetry from the point of view of a dedicated reader, a practising writer and a lifelong champion of its power and potential.
‘[Armitage] blended his down-to-earth, often flippant demeanour with a brilliantly understated, original and captivating address, which never strayed into pretentiousness or self-importance.’ Oxford Culture Review
‘Armitage is that rare beast: a poet whose work is ambitious, accomplished and complex as well as popular.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Our best living poet.’ Evening Standard
‘Armitage’s poetic world is instantly recognisable, always inclusive . . . Mature, engaging and empathetic work.’ New Statesman‘Armitage looks outwards not inwards, which is probably key to his well-deserved popularity.’ Daily Mail
‘Among Armitage’s talents has always been his ability to set up easy-going conversational rhythms, then use them to power through difficult material.’ Guardian