ABOUT OUR TWO FEATURED POETS

Simon Armitage

 

“Armitage is that rare beast: a poet whose work is ambitious, accomplished and complex as well as popular….he has become one of the most distinctive voices in British literature.”

—The Telegraph

 

“A writer who has had a game-changing influence on his contemporaries, and continues to cast a shadow over younger poets.” —The Guardian

 

Born in 1963  in the village of Marsden, England, Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet, author, songwriter, playwright, and translator. Residing in West Yorkshire, he is the current Professor of Poetry at Oxford University (2015-2019) and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. The Unaccompanied (August 2017), a  powerful new collection of poetry in which Armitage X-rays the weary but ironic soul of Britain with grace, is his most recent publication.

 

In 2010, for services to poetry, Armitage was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. His numerous other awards include the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, one of the first Forward Prizes, a Lannan Award, a Cholmondeley Award and the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize. In 2012, at the 25th Hay Festival, he was presented with the Hay Medal for Poetry. In 1999 Armitage was named the Millennium Poet and published the one thousand line poem Killing Time. In 2017, he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his new verse translation of Pearl. The judges citation states Armitage, “gives the contemporary reader unrivaled access to a haunting poem of love, mourning, beauty, and religious mystery. Combining elegance and erudition with graceful ease, Armitage recreates the original poem’s alliterative and intricate formal structure, illuminating why Pearl is such a foundational lyrical poem in English literature. Like all great poetry, and like the original Pearl itself, this marvelous feat of translation is a gift back to our own language and a gift toward its future.”

 

Armitage’s first full-length collection of poems, Zoom!, was published in 1989 and Xanadu was published in 1992. Further collections, all published by Faber & Faber, include: Kid (1992); Book of Matches (1993); The Dead Sea Poems (1995); MoonCountry (with Glyn Maxwell, 1996); CloudCuckooLand (1997); Killing

Time (1999); Selected Poems (2001); Travelling Songs (2002); The Universal Home Doctor (2002); Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (2006; in the US by Knopf 2008), shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Seeing Stars (2010, in the US by Knopf 2011); and Paper Aeroplane, Selected Poems 1989-2014 (2014). The Shout, his first US collection was published by Harcourt in 2005 and was also shortlisted for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. With Robert Crawford he edited The Penguin Anthology of Poetry from Britain and Ireland Since 1945 and is the editor of a selection of Ted Hughes’ poetry.

 

Armitage’s highly acclaimed translation of the middle English classic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was commissioned by Faber & Faber in the UK and Norton in the US and published in 2007; the translation has sold over one hundred thousand copies worldwide and now appears in its entirety in the Norton Anthology of English Literature. A further medieval translation, The Death of King Arthur, was published by Faber and Norton in 2011, was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the 2012 TS Eliot Prize. His translation of the medieval poem Pearl was published  in 2016 from Faber & Faber in the UK and from Norton in the US.

 

He writes extensively for radio and television, and is the author of four stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of the Euripides play The Madness of Heracles, and The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2014. His dramatization of The Odyssey, commissioned by the BBC, was published as Homer’s Odyssey – A Retelling by Faber & Faber in the UK and by Norton in the US. In 2005 he received an Ivor Novello Award for his song-lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings, which also won a BAFTA, and in 2006 his television documentary Song Birds was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. As a broadcaster Armitage has presented films for the BBC on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Arthurian Literature and on Homer’s Odyssey, sailing from Troy in Turkey to the Greek island of Ithaca. In 2006 he wrote the libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, composed by Stuart McRae, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival.

 

Armitage has published two novels, Little Green Man (Penguin, 2001) and The White Stuff (Penguin, 2004). His other prose works include the three best-selling non-fiction titles All Points North; Walking Home—published in the US by Norton under the title Walking Home, a Poet’s Journey; and Walking Away.

 

He has served as a judge for the Forward Prize, the T.S Eliot Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the Griffin Prize, and in 2006 was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. Simon Armitage is a Vice President of the Poetry Society and in 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has taught at the University of Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan University and in 2000 at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. In 2012, as an artist in residence at London’s South Bank 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 recognized as the biggest coming together of international poets in history.

Terrance Hayes

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“Terrance Hayes is a poet who reflects on race, gender, and family in works marked by formal dexterity and a reverence for history and the artistry of crafting verse. Employing an almost improvisational approach to writing, Hayes conjoins fluid, often humorous wordplay with references to popular culture both past and present in his subversion of canonical poetic forms.”

—MacArthur Foundation 

 

One of the most compelling voices in American poetry, Terrance Hayes is the author of six books of poetry: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins (2018), shortlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; How to Be Drawn (2015), longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry; Lighthead (2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award in Poetry; Wind in a Box, winner of a Pushcart Prize; Hip Logic, winner of the National Poetry Series, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and runner-up for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Muscular Music, winner of both the Whiting Writers Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is also the author of the short story collection To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (2018). He has been a recipient of many other honors and awards, including a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, two Pushcart selections, eight Best American Poetry selections, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Foundation. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Fence, The Kenyon Review, Jubilat, Harvard Review, and Poetry. His poetry has also been featured on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

 

Lighthead, his most innovative collection, investigates how we construct experience, presenting “the light-headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time.” The citation for the National Book Award described it as a “dazzling mixture of wisdom and lyric innovation.” In Muscular Music, Hayes takes readers through a living library of cultural icons, from Shaft and Fat Albert to John Coltrane and Miles Davis. In Wind in a Box, he explores how identity is shaped by race, heritage, and spirituality, with the unifying motif being the struggle for freedom within containment. In Hip Logic, Hayes confronts racism, sexism, religion, family structure, and stereotypes with overwhelming imagery.

 

Hayes is an elegant and adventurous writer with disarming humor, grace, tenderness, and brilliant turns of phrase, very much interested in what it means to be an artist and a black man. He writes, “There are recurring explorations of identity and culture in my work and rather than deny my thematic obsessions, I work to change the forms in which I voice them. I aspire to a poetic style that resists style. In my newest work, I continue to be guided by my interests in people: in the ways community enriches the nuances of individuality; the ways individuality enriches the nuances of community.”

Artist-in-residence at New York University, Hayes currently resides in New York City.

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