Book review – Walking Away by Simon Armitage

Walking Home by Simon Armitage“There’s a sameness to this kind of walking, with the corner of my right eye always full of the blueness of the water and my left always full of the greenness of the land.”

So writes Simon Armitage shortly into the follow-up to his troubadour travelogue Walking Home, in which he hiked the Pennine Way. In Walking Away, Simon is again travelling without a penny to ease his way, instead relying on his poems to secure bed and board, plus the funds for the occasional ice cream, by reading his work to enthralled and occasionally bemused gatherings between Minehead and The Scilly Isles.

It’s a pleasingly audacious idea – a challenge to himself to discover whether or not poetry has a relevance in the present day. Almost every evening he gives a reading, in part to see who will attend, and after each event a large sock is left out which attendees are invited to drop donations into, not all of which turn out to be monetary.

Armitage is a hugely likeable fellow, with a keen eye for the gentle absurdities of the world, making each step of the way a delight. He notices things many of us might overlook, so that his commentary is peppered with oddities such as “wilfully quirky signposting”, lanes “so upholstered with spongy luminous green moss it has the appearance of a sea bed or coral reef” and, as the tide rolls in, moored boats in the bay “stirring and righting themselves like horses after sleep.”

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Written in their own fair hand…

Extract from The Wild Places by Robert MacfarlaneThere’s something about seeing a writer’s words written in their own handwriting that feels incredibly intimate.

To celebrate Independent Booksellers Week (on until 6 July), the Independent Alliance of publishers commissioned five limited edition Written Word prints, featuring handwritten extracts from authors Mark Forsyth, Simon Armitage, Robert MacFarlane, Yan Martell and Ruth Ozeki.

Man With A Golf Ball Heart by Simon ArmitageThe Written Word prints include extracts from  Life of Pi (Martell), The Etymologicon (Forsyth), Man with a Golf Ball Heart (Armitage), The Wild Places (MacFarlane), and A Tale for the Time Being (Ozeki), shortlisted for the IBW Book Award.

These are beautiful, rare, and inspiring works of literary art, reproduced on A4 FSC accredited offset paper, with the handwritten text complemented by the author’s signature and book jacket image.

It’s such a fitting way to mark Independent Booksellers Week, a weeklong festival, now in its seventh year, that brings together authors, publishers, bookshops and book lovers to acknowledge the special place independent bookshops still hold on many UK high streets (though sadly fewer than I’d like).

Each print is priced at £20 and will be supplied in a tube, ready for the customer to unroll and frame. Find full details at www.independentbooksellersweek.org.uk.