Simon Armitage: Probation Officer to Poet Laureate

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Université de Lille


Simon Armitage: Probation Officer to Poet Laureate

International conference at the Université de Lille, France. 12 – 13 March 2020.


With a reading by Simon Armitage

Keynote speaker: Terry Gifford



Organisation Committee: Claire Hélie (Senior Lecturer, Lille), Samuel Trainor (Senior Lecturer, Lille), Marc Porée (Professor, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris), Carole Birkan Berz (Senior Lecturer, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3), Juliette Utard (Senior Lecturer, Sorbonne, Paris 4), David Creuze (PhD student, Lille)


Call for Papers 


The biographical note accompanying one of the first poems Simon Armitage ever published, read simply: “SIMON ARMITAGE was born in Marsden, Huddersfield in 1963, he is now a post-graduate at Manchester University” (Iron Magazine 1986).


Today Simon Armitage’s list of publications boasts over 20 collections of poetry, from Human Geography (Smith/Doorstop Books 1986) to Sandette Light Vessel Automatic (Faber 2019), as well as a number of plays and radio dramas, two novels, two travel books, a collection of essays, his memoirs, literary anthologies, film poems, poetry documentaries for television, and innumerable conferences and public appearances. He has also been the recipient of a vast number of literary prizes and awards.


On the 10th of May 2019, towards the end of his time as Oxford Professor of Poetry, he was appointed as the UK’s Poet Laureate, succeeding Carol Anne Duffy for a fixed term of ten years. His appointment to one of the most prestigious roles in English poetry makes this an opportune moment to look back on the poetic career of a man who was still working as a probation officer during the publication of his first four major collections (Zoom!, 1989 to Book of Matches, 1993). The analysis of his career might focus on concepts of emergence, legitimisation and canonisation. Participants might consider contributions based on the following, non-exhaustive, list of themes and questions:


-        Armitage as an example of exchanges between margin and centre

-        Armitage’s relationship with classic literature and traditional literary forms (translations, re-dramatisations, formal constraints etc.)

-        Armitage in translation (Paul Bensimon in French, Jan Wagner in German, Erminia Passannanti and M. Bocchiola in Italian…)

-        the reception of Armitage’s poetry beyond the UK and in non-anglophone countries

-        Armitage and anthologies (both those he has edited and those in which his work is included)

-        Armitage’s relationship with other poets of his generation (both those in the so-called “New Generation” and those not included in this list)

-        Armitage’s relationship with poets that have inspired him (e.g. Ted Hughes) and with new or younger poets

-        Armitage as performer (poetry readings, conferences, television and radio broadcasts)

-        Armitage’s humour

-        representations of Armitage and his poetry in the press and via social media

-        Armitage and literary prizes (as recipient and jury member)

-        The Simon Armitage Archives at Leeds University

-        Armitage on the GCSE curriculum

-        the reception of Armitage beyond poetry circles (e.g. controversy surrounding the Stanza Stones)

-        Armitage in relation to ‘Englishness’ and Northern English identity and culture

-        Armitage and the political context of Brexit and the absence of English devolution

-        Armitage’s appointment as Poet Laureate


Abstracts of 500 words max, accompanied by a biography/bibliography of 150 words max, should be sent to by 30 September 2019. The results of the committee’s selection process will be sent out in November.



Scientific Committee


-        Julie Blake (Methods Fellow, Cambridge University)

-        Heather Clark (Professor, Huddersfield)

-        Steve Ely (Senior Lecturer, Huddersfield)

-        Terry Gifford (Visiting Scholar, Bath Spa University)

-        Sara Greaves (Senior Lecturer, Aix-Marseille)

-        Neil Roberts (Emeritus Professor, University of Sheffield)

-        Lacey Rumsey (Senior Lecturer, Ecole normale supérieure, Lyon)

-        Jessica Stephens (Senior Lecturer, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3)

-        James Underwood (Senior Lecturer, Huddersfield)

-        Paul Volsik (Emeritus Professor, Paris-Diderot)




Costambeys-Kempczynski, Raphaël. “Truly, it’s how I am: Autobiography in Simon Armitage’s Book of Matches.” Poetry and Autobiography. Ed. Helen Goethals. Cercles 2 (2000), pp. 56-69.

Coussens, Catherine. “British National Identity, Topicality and Tradition in the Poetry of Simon Armitage.” Journal of Arts and Sciences 9 (2008), pp. 17-38.

Frattali, A., Pietrosanti, S. “Homer's wave machine. ‘Odyssey’ di Simon Armitage per la regia di Robert Wilson.” Dionysus ex machina (24 June 2014), pp. 1-15.

HELIE, Claire “’It’s my voice; that’s how I speak’: The Rhythms of Northern English in the Poetry of Simon Armitage.” Études britanniques contemporaines 39 (2010), pp.157-170.

Kennedy, David. “ ‘England Gone’: The Rhetorical Imagination and Ideas of Nation in the Poetry of Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell.” New Relations: The Refashioning of Poetry 1980-94. Mid Glamorgan: Seren, 1996, pp. 5-78.

O’BRIEN, Sean, “Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell: Now then, Lads” The Deregulated Muse: Essays on Contemporary British and Irish Poetry. Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 1997, pp.241-252.

RANDALL, Martin. “ ‘A Wing and a Prayer’: Simon Armitage, Out of the Blue”. 9/11 and the Literature of Terror. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011, pp.78-87.

ROBINSON, Mark. “ ‘True North’: The Re-Invention of ‘The Provinces’ in the poems of Simon Armitage and the Northern School”. A World of Local Voices: Poetry in English Today. Ed. Klaus Martens, Paul Morris and Arlette Warken. Würzburg: Königshausen & Newman, 2003, pp. 103-114.

SANSOM, Ian. “Cliché! The Poetry of Simon Armitage”. Thumbscrew, vol.3, autumn / winter 1995, pp.11-17.

SHAW, Katy. “The (Spectral) Turn of the Century in Simon Armitage’s ‘Killing Time’ (1999)”, Hauntology: The Presence of the Past in Twenty-First Century English Literature. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp.25-42.

THAIN, Marion. “An ‘Uncomfortable Intersection’: The Meeting of Contemporary Urban and Rural Environments in the Poetry of Simon Armitage”. Worldviews, vol. 5, 2001, pp. 58-79.