Simon Armitage – Comparison of Two Poems

Simon Armitage writes about a range of different topics. In the two poems I have chosen, he focuses on people and personal experience. I will briefly describe both poems and show how each poem reveals something about Human nature.
I will begin with the poem “About his person”. This poem lists all the items a dead man had upon him when he was discovered. In many ways, these objects represent the mans life. It reads like a police report. Although the poem cannot tell us anything about the mans thoughts, it tells us a lot about the mans life. The poem is deceptively simple.
There is a pun in the title. “About his person” is a formal way of saying “he had on him” but it also emphasises that the poem is about a dead person. This is an example of how Armitage uses ambiguous language. Also, his technique of colloquial language makes his poems more meaningful. Both poems are about ordinary people. Another example of ambiguous language is:

“A give-away photograph stashed in his wallet,
A keepsake banked in the heart of a locket”.
We ask ourselves, is the photograph “stashed in his wallet” the equivalent of a keepsake in a locket, or were they two separate items. The photographs makes us think that he may have had loved ones. After all it is human nature to love someone.
Armitage uses a simile in line twelve. Up until line twelve the diction is factual and plain. In line 12, he compares the note of explanation to a spray carnation. Carnations being funeral flowers, are associated with death or a funeral and reminds us that that somehow the man died. The use of language points towards how humans experience depression and even suicide. In this poem, each item is described precisely.
Armitage begins the list with a normal �5.50 in the mans pocket, “exactly”. He mentions “a library card on its date of expiry”. The card is invalid. Just like the mans life it means nothing, its worthless. The poem also mentions a “mortise lock” also known as a death lock, “an analogue watch, self-winding, stopped”. These items are listed in terms of death. Could this list of deathlike items be a reason for a human to commit suicide? We are intrigued by the final line, “A final demand”, what does this mean? The postcard is also a mystery but it indicates family or loved ones.
“A ring of white unweathered skin”, “No gold No silver”. Obviously, the man used to wear a ring but he no longer does. Was he divorced? Or maybe his wife died. We can link those last few lines to line six about the first of April (i.e. April fools day.) This indicates that someone was fooled. Perhaps, he was fooled by his wife. The last line, “That was everything”, finalises the poem. His whole life shown by the list, everything.
The poem is structured in rhyming couplets. It is short and precise and consists of 10 “two line stanza’s”. The poem has a simple form. The poet uses imagery e.g. The photo in his wallet leads us to imagine that he had loved ones. The “carnations” make us imagine a memorial service. We are born and than we die, it is nature. “No gold or silver” but a mark where a ring had once been indicates a failed relationship. He was being selfish if, he had committed suicide but we are still sympathetic. The poem gives a pessimistic outlook on life.
The poem is sad, mourning and depressing. There isn’t much feeling but there is a lot of meaning. The tone is deadpan. There is a slow rhythm to indicate death and sorrow. The rhyming within couplets gives an air of finality and completeness.
The poem “I am very bothered” is written differently. It is like a direct confession. The colloquial language used is very appropriate. There is not much rhyme in this poem. It is quite simple just as a thirteen-year-old boy would write; he uses words such as “butterfingered”. The first stanza tells us he is bothered about many things he has done in his life and not least the time he burned her hand in the “chemistry lab”. The word chemistry makes us think of love and emotion. The poem is typical of how far a human being would go to get some-ones attention but we have to remember that the boy is only thirteen and incapable of expressing his love for the girl he wished to marry. The girl is anonymous, why? , Perhaps to avoid embarrassment. He “played the handles” of the scissors as if it were a game. An example in this poem of Armitage’s ambiguous language is: the “naked lilac flame”. The two different meanings I have discovered are, the flame is unprotected and can do damage, and the boy may have been thinking of a naked girl. The writer addresses the girl as “you” as if she was present.
The words “unrivalled stench” and “eternity” emphasise how serious the burning actually was. Was the boy branding the girl as his just as farmer’s brand their herd “eternity” is a strong word. It means forever but it also makes us think of eternity rings. “did they meet in later like and get married? The girl will be scarred. She will always remember the incident. The poem is quite personal but also sarcastic. The poem is about forgiveness, shame and guilt. The writer manipulates us in the last stanza:
“Don’t believe me, please, if I say
That was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
Of asking you if you would marry me.”
He asks us not to believe him but I think it is obvious that he wants us to believe him. He is felling guilty.
The poem begins with and slow sorrowful rhythm but speeds up towards the end. There is a pleading, sorrowful and emotional tone.
The first stanza is a bout the planning of what he will do. It is almost as if he takes a deep breath before he starts the second stanza where he actually carries out the “experiment”. It describes what he does and what happens. The third stanza is about his regrets. The poem reads like a script and there is some rhyme. As I mentioned before the word naked gives us two different images, as does the word “eternity”. Is a sign of never-ending love but we may also think of eternity rings.
The poem goes from the writer finding enjoyment in what he did to his confession of what he did. The poem is an example of human nature i.e. The boy loves the girl, is uncapable of showing his feelings and so he hurts her. It seems ironic but it happens. This poem reveals that people make mistakes and usually the want forgiveness.
Armitage’s use of language has helped reveal a lot about human nature particularly in the second poem, which is quite typical, of what a thirteen year old boy might do to gets a girls attention.

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