Armitage's droll account of hiking England's Pennine Way. Housed and fed in exchange for poetry readings, he reflects on nature, personal challenge and the generosity of strangers. A beautiful depiction of the region, from fells to fog-obscured heights. — Amy Palmer
A thoughtful journey south along the Pennine Way for the poet results in nourishing entertainment for the reader. I laughed out loud and marveled at the place names and turns of phrase that pour effortlessly from his pen. This truly working poet shares a bit of his soul (and his sole) with us. — Karen Frank
Nineteen days, 256 miles, and one renowned poet walking the backbone of England.
The wandering poet has always been a feature of our cultural imagination. Odysseus journeys home, his famous flair for storytelling seducing friend and foe. The Romantic poets tramped all over the Lake District searching for inspiration. Now Simon Armitage, with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation, as well as a wry humor all his own, has taken on Britain’s version of our Appalachian Trail: the Pennine Way. Walking “the backbone of England” by day (accompanied by friends, family, strangers, dogs, the unpredictable English weather, and a backpack full of Mars Bars), each evening he gives a poetry reading in a different village in exchange for a bed. Armitage reflects on the inextricable link between freedom and fear as well as the poet’s place in our bustling world. In Armitage’s own words, “to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up a challenge against the self.”
About the Author
Simon Armitage is the award-winning poet and translator of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur, as well as several works of poetry, prose, and drama. He is the Oxford Professor of Poetry.
[Armitage] displays a sharp appreciation of place, both in its unique contours and its mystery… doling out small stories—about the people he walks with or the history of the landscape, the misery of midges or the terror of a deep fog high in the Uplands—that flash like sun on chrome.
Starred review. [A]n ingenious idea for a journey and a brilliant idea for a book, which includes some of his poems. In this entertaining jaunt through rural Britain and unpredictable weather, part travel guide and part memoir, Armitage describes his adventures, from collie dogs growling at his heels and “mean-looking cows” to the unbridled generosity of strangers. A travel gem.
Part pilgrimage and part stunt… He writes with self-effacing humor and mixes a few of his own poems with memoir, natural history, and literary reflections… Though Armitage complains at times that the Pennine Way is an ‘unglamorous slog among soggy, lonely moors” …his account is never a slog for the reader.
Never showy or excitable, his prose has a steady, phlegmatic, gently propulsive rhythm perfectly suited to the matter at hand, his sentences in tune with his feet. — Ben Downing