This article is taken from Stand 216, 15(4) December 2017 - February 2018.

Ruth Burton The Simon Armitage Archive

The archives held in Special Collections at Leeds University Library are not static, but continue to expand and evolve. This is especially true of the papers of contemporary poets, including Simon Armitage. Armitage’s extensive collection ranges from unpublished manuscripts written in the 1980s to born-digital material, including computer files and digital photographs. As such, it encompasses changes not only in subject matter and zeitgeist but also in writing practices.  

In foregrounding writing practices, literary archives can help to illuminate the complex relationship between poet, composition and subject in ways that may be lost in the printed text. Archive materials relating to Armitage’s Walking Home, a travelogue of the Pennine Way, which he walked in 2010, are a good example of this.

Armitage’s poetry is repeatedly grounded in the landscape of Northern England, and Walking Home unpicks the relationship between the individual and his environment. Stretching over 250 miles, the landscape of the Pennine Way is both familiar and unfamiliar to Armitage. It is physically challenging terrain, the site of historic battles and poetic inspiration, but also a pathway that will take him home. He approaches this diversity in prose and poetry, conveying pessimism and jubilation, the uncanny and the wryly comic. What is less obvious in the printed text, however, is the role of writing in the mediation of Armitage’s experience.  

The Simon Armitage Archive includes the red notebook he used throughout his walk. Here, the ways in which writing shapes ...
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