These poems were written for a poem-film by Simon Armitage in the BBC 2 series Words on Film. The film is set on the Ashfield Valley Estate in Rochdale, Lancashire, which consisted of 26 alphabetically named flats. Ashfield Valley was in the process of being demolished as the poems were written and the film was being made. Simon Armitage was then working as a probation officer, and his first posting as a raw recruit was to Rochdale, where his patch included Ashfield Valley. Xanadu is his personal and imaginative response to the ill-starred estate, using highly innovative and strangely unsettling poetry and film techniques, assisted by contributions from the last surviving Ashfield tenants. Dogs, snow and Hungarian dancers add further zest to Armitage's Xanadu. The book is illustrated with stills from the film.
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Armitage creates a muscular but elegant language of his own out of slangy, youthful, up-to-the-minute jargon and the vernacular of his native northern England. He combines this with an easily worn erudition, plenty of nous and the benefit of unblinkered experience (he works as a probation officer), to produce poems of moving originality. -- Peter Reading * Sunday Times *
About Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Huddersfield, England. After studying Geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic, he worked with young offenders before gaining a postgraduate qualification in social work at Manchester University. He worked as a probation officer in Oldham until 1994. His poetry books include Zoom! (Bloodaxe Books, 1989), Xanadu (Bloodaxe Books, 1992), and later collections published by Faber, including Kid (1992), and CloudCuckooLand (1997). He won an Eric Gregory Award in 1988. Zoom! was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for a Whitbread Poetry Award. Mister Heracles (2000), an adaptation of Euripides' Heracles, was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse. His first Selected Poems was published by Faber in 2001, followed by The Universal Home Doctor (2002). More recently he has published a number of verse adaptations of classic works, including Homer's Odyssey (2006), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007), The Death of King Arthur (2011), and a dramatisation for BBC Radio 4, The Last Days of Troy (2015). His most collections of poetry from Faber are Tyrannosaurus versus the Corduroy Kid (2006), Seeing Stars (2010), Paper Aeroplanes: Poems 1989-2014 (2014) and The Unaccompanied (2017). Simon Armitage has worked extensively in film, radio and television, and has published fiction and non-fiction titles. He is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds and was elected to serve as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford for 2015-2019. He has also taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop and at Manchester Metropolitan University before his 2011 appointment as Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. He was made a CBE for services to poetry in 2010. In 2012, as an artist in residence at London's Southbank Centre, he conceived and curated Poetry Parnassus, a gathering of world poets and poetry from every Olympic nation as part of Britain's Cultural Olympiad, a landmark event generally recognised as the biggest coming together of international poets in history, documented in the Bloodaxe anthology, The World Record, for which he wrote the introduction.
Xanadu by Simon Armitage
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