After a long week with extra overtime a while ago I treated myself to a selection of things that had been loitering on my amazon wishlist, and amongst them was Seeing Stars, Armitage's most recent publication, he apparently claims them as poetry, but I'm not so sure. What they are is more like stories, but not stories like anything I have read before. Sometimes the briefest of snippets of an existence, sometimes a moment that captures the whole of life, sometimes surreal, almost meaningless, or interrupted by apparently random thoughts. The language is certain poetic and they often get their point across in the same oblique way that poems do, but the sense you get is more like something you might overhear in a pub, where you have only caught half the tale. I have not finished the book, because it is a collection to savour, the humour and the ideas, so this is just to tempt you to buy your own.
From the second, 'An Accommodation', where a couple are divided by a net curtain:
"Over the years the moths moved in, got a taste for the net, so it came to resemble a giant web, like a thing made of actual holes strung together by fine nervous threads. But there it remained, and remains to this day, this tattered shroud, this ravaged lace suspended between our lives, keeping us inseparable and betrothed."
In 'Michael' we contemplate what early experiences might mean, the theory goes that the first item you steal is a symbol for what you will become:
"Clint stole a bottle of cooking sherry, now he owns a tapas bar. Kirsty's an investment banker and she stole money from her mother's purse. Tod took a Curly Wurly and he's morbidly obese. Claude says he never stole anything in his whole life, and he's an actor i.e. unemployed. Derek says, 'But wait a second, I stole a blue Smurf on a polythene parachute.' And Kirsty says, 'So what more proof do we need, Derek?' "
'Hop in, Dennis' tells the tale of a warm hearted driver who gives lifts to strangers (but only if your name is Dennis):
"I once drove Dennis Thatcher from Leicester Forest East service station to Ludlow races and he wasn't a moment's bother, though I did have to ask him to refrain from smoking, and of course not to breathe one word about the woman who introduced rabies to South Yorkshire."
In 'Aviators' an overbooked airline needs to bump a passenger, but the only volunteer is the pilot:
" 'But who'll fly the plane?' she wanted to know. 'Why me, of course.' I opened my mouth so she could see how good my teeth were - like pilot's teeth. 'Do you have a licence?' she asked. I said, 'Details, always details. Dorothy, it's time to let go a little, to trust in the unexplained. Time to open your mind to the infinite.' By now my hand was resting on hers, and a small crowd of passengers had gathered around, nodding and patting me on the back."
They are all witty and clever, leaving you with a wry smile or a pause for thought, mostly both.