Simon Armitage is a local lad, well, local to us when we lived in the north of England.He comes from across the Pennine Hills In Lancashire (the people of those hills, by the way had their own ancient language until well after the Norman Conquest) Simon was born in Marsden, a pretty little town in Yorkshire, in 1963 and was a probation officer. His poetry speaks with such an authentic voice it was very accessible to my students, simple and clear but with many layers.
This poem was a particular favourite, and I would act it out, moving further and further away until I was halfway down the corridor and shouting it to them!
We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face
I don’t remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth,
I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.
He called from over the park – I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,
from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell’s Farm—
I lifted an arm.
He left town, went to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.
Boy with the name and face I don’t remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.
by Simon Armitage