Monday, 1 June 2009


Any U.K. poetry fan already knows what I'm on about and that's quite an achievement in itself - not many other book titles are as renowned on the contemporary scene. For once, this was a collection that surpassed its publisher's blurb.

My intention here is not so much to go over the old ground of Simon Armitage's inventive use of language, catchy rhythms and universal to specific to universal treatment of his subject matter. Nor is it to focus on how Zoom! influenced me in my early twenties. Instead, the point of this post is simply that I have never so been hooked by anything else Armitage has subsequently written. By this, I don't mean that I haven't admired his later work and seen advances in erudition and wizardry, but that Zoom! is special.

I wonder whether Armitage's unique value as a poet was his youthful freshness, vigour, immediacy and rough edges. I thus also wonder whether Zoom! is always going to be his stand-out collection, no matter what he writes in the future. If so, he's still made an incredible contribution to U.K. poetry.

Maybe, just maybe, Armitage shares something with a number of popular musicians - they can never recapture the spirit of their first album. That record eventually takes on emblematic status; Zoom! is also on its way to doing so.

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