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Poem: Simon Armitage

"October on Earth / and distinctly autumnal"

October on Earth

and distinctly autumnal,

the goldfish bowl

of the sixth-form common room,

an hour’s lull

in the space-time continuum


between double physics

and English literature,

a radio oozing


with American soft-rock

and easy listening,


a blurred ruckus

of alpha males

working line-out drills

and rolling mauls

with a Hallowe’en pumpkin,

meeker souls


in tight constellations,

some brown-nosing

through Isaac Newton

or Robert Browning,

some Rubik’s-cubing

or grooming and braiding,


some lost in the coma

of late revision.

As Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara”

looped the horizon

(the six-minute-plus

album version)


the school trickster

and first-choice scrum-half

plunged the volume slider

from seven to nought

on the cusp of the line:

“You’re the poet in my heart”.


And the airspace that followed

was instantly baubled

with orbs and globes

from the mouths of angels

and an outed choirboy’s

helium bubbles,

till the heavens ballooned

with unworldly apples.


Simon Armitage is Professor of Poetry at Oxford. His latest book, a translation of Pearl, is published by Faber & Faber.


This article first appeared in the 15 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016

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"On Crutches" and "At Thirty Three"

Two poems by Joe Dunthorne.

On Crutches

Are you trying to say
you never leapt from a spinny chair
into the backing singer’s arms
at the gender-neutral barber’s soft launch
yelling “for I am the centrifuge,
all densities find kin within me” at which point
she – ha! – totally caught you
then whispered something tender to your charming,
harmless mole and next thing
it was dawn in the playpark as you shoulder-rolled
in dismount from the tyre’s ecliptic swing
– shoeless, by now, you maniac – coming down weird
and hard on your ankle which shivered
but did not crack – ha! – ha! – and so, in fact,
I have no fucking idea
how you hurt yourself – probably in the shower –
you horrid, impossible man.


At thirty-three

I finally had the dream
where I made love to my mother.
I kept saying you are my mother
and she said I absolutely am
then she phoned my father
and told him everything.


Joe Dunthorne’s new novel, The Adulterants, will be published in February. His poems are published in Faber New Poets 5.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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