This is the Rainbow List of Must-Reads: Where I review a different one of my favourite books each week! Second on our list we have an orange book with an orange cover:
Selected Poems by Simon Armitage
At the beginning of last year I did not really understand poetry. Having only ever been exposed to the poems I was forced to study in English class – the colder, harder works of Carol Ann Duffy – I saw poetry as the indulgence of the thoughts of the more miserable, bitter beings among us. I just couldn’t connect with it. The fact that I was made to write critical essays on such texts probably didn’t help open my mind to the world of poetry.
On National Poetry Day last year my English teacher decided that before we would continue work on our prose essays that she would read us some poetry from a few of her favourite books. There was a low groan across the class as she opened a dull-looking book with the word ‘Duffy’ distinctly printed across the front. Just as expected, the poem my teacher proceeded to read was as cold and inappropriately self-righteous as all the ones before. I sank a little in my seat.
When the poem was done my teacher put the book down and pulled a second out of her handbag. This book was bright and inviting and we all sat up a little straighter as she opened it on the middle page and began to read.
What she read next was the most deliciously beautiful combination of words I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. It didn’t rhyme - I didn’t know poems could do that – and it wasn’t as self-aware as everything else I had heard. My teacher had a soft voice that was well-suited to reading aloud but I knew this poem would have sounded graceful on anyone’s tongue.
That night, when I got home, I was unable to remember the title of the poem. I typed a few of the more distinctive lines into google and after a few quick clicks I had found it. ‘You’re Beautiful’ By Simon Armitage. I wrote it down in my notebook and read it again before I fell asleep.
That poem is what kindled my passionate love affair with poetry. For my birthday that year I asked my mum for anything she could find in Waterstones by Simon Armitage. ‘Selected Poems’ is what she bought me. With a bright orange cover, it is a hand-picked collection of a few poems from each of his books. I was elated to find that almost every poem in that book was a gorgeous as ‘You’re Beautiful’ – if not more. ‘To His Lost Lover’ is my favourite.
Since then I have treated ‘Selected Poems’ as my comfort food of books. When I’m feeling particularly teenage and emotional I open it up and read them quietly to myself. I feel very deep when I do that.
But now, Simon Armitage is not the only poet to take place on my bookshelves. Maya Angelou and Tanya Shirley now sit warmly on either side of him. I love ‘Selected Poems’ not only because it was the most beautiful book I had ever read, but also because it sent me venturing into a thick new jungle of similes and metaphors.
I still hate to study poetry in class, but only because I think that’s not how poetry should be enjoyed. It was never really meant to be torn apart and scoured for symbolism, but instead read and (please forgive the cliché) felt. I will never like Carol Ann Duffy because I never got to read her on my own – I was forced to.
Without ‘Selected Poems’ I never would have known all of this. And that is why it deserves the orange spot on my rainbow list of must-reads.
You can find out more about Simon Armitage here!
And you can read the other parts to this series here: Red! Orange! Yellow!