A poet, at a desk, in a shed. A shed which is temple, bunker, study and look-out post all rolled into one.
Not far away, in the surrounding West Yorkshire countryside, the local council have begun “peeling back turf” to turn a former cow-field into a new cemetery.
In this brand new collection from Simon Armitage, day-to-day observations become short and layered meditations addressed to any “reader” within earshot, from the adulterers and learner drivers cruising the cemetery’s newly laid tarmac, to the cosmos itself, staring back with its “dumb face.” As the graveyard takes shape, its presence on the brow of the hill becomes a lengthening shadow over the imagination, triggering terse, sarcastic responses and quieter personal recollections, leading eventually to a grand litany of local landmarks as the poet stakes out his place among moorland reservoirs blazing with evening sun. In New Cemetery, Armitage faces up to the bylaws of local planning committees and the laws of the universe with his customary deft wit and detached lyricism, but with a stripped-back clarity and lo-fi approach that hints at a new beginning.
Fun fact: if you were to look out of Simon’s shed window, you’d see a large stone engraved with a poem that made its print appearance in ‘New Cemetery’ (listen in at 18:15 in the episode of Simon’s podcast ‘The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed’ with Guy Garvey, and you’ll hear them discussing it).