Armitage ready to investigate the role of rap in modern poetry

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Simon Armitage has said he will use rap and hip hop to investigate definitions of modern poetry in his forthcoming role as the new professor of poetry at Oxford University. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said he did not have a list of objectives, but added: “I do want to broaden the things that we investigate.

“We are a hypochondriac lot, we are always thinking that our form is in peril on or the point of expiring and yet you look … at what's happening in the world of rap - which I am not saying this is necessarily poetry per se - but it is certainly dealing in poetry technique. These are the forthcoming generations and for me that's about connecting with the present and not thinking of poetry as a museum.

“We might need to consider what constitutes poetry, and rap might be one of the answers. If it comes up I'll probably talk about Kate Tempest - though she might be hip hop.”

He said: “Throughout my life as a poet from the beginning, generally I like to think about expanding our definition of what poetry is and challenging some ideas of ownership. Who makes these categories? Who decides what works and what doesn’t work as poetry?

“I don't see the post as being restricted to just talking about poetry - other subjects will get drawn in: culture, politics, news agendas of the day. I don’t want to be restricted to just talking about poetry because poetry overlaps with [other subjects].”

He also thinks that the next person taking his place should be a woman. “You can’t look at an institution and see it's never had a woman in poetry and say that's right. That's got to change just as poetry itself changed hugely through women's voices.”


Background: Simon Armitage wins Oxford professor of poetry election 







◄ Small Hands: Mona Arshi, Liverpool University Press

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Tue 28th Jul 2015 13:36

I cannot think of a better man to get the job at oxford

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Julian (Admin)

Tue 14th Jul 2015 06:58

Never juggle tripe over the pond of poetry, especially if you've just had a hip op. Wrap carefully, to avoid the unacceptable whiff of the elder within.

I see nothing in the article to suggest that Armitage advocates degrading the language. Although rarely to my taste, I have been impressed with the vocabulary and deftness of some youngsters who have written and performed rap; some of whom have gone on to write good poetry and other forms.

I have been less impressed with some not-so-youngsters trying to perform rap. However, your idea of tripe juggling does give me an idea, Graham.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sun 12th Jul 2015 13:03

Of course poetry overlaps with other subjects. The Pond of Poetry IS all subjects, and our individual baits and hooks will catch unending diverse Points and Plots with skills suitable to the subject and Projected readership/listening audience.

And I do apologize for such a lame metaphor; but it flipped right into my head and flopped around my mind so I decided - Hell's Bells - just go with it.

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 8th Jul 2015 17:02

I certainly understand the concept of poetry as an evolving
art form - with the caveat that it should be within the
range of all and not selective by special interest material.
If words are to be employed under the term "poetry" then
let them be for the comprehension of all and not the few.
We should not need dictionaries to translate - as if from
a foreign language - what we are offered to read...
with the exception, perhaps, of nonsense from the likes
of Edward Lear.

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Graham Sherwood

Wed 8th Jul 2015 11:47

Oh dear, we are getting down and dirty with the yoof aren't we?

Trying to get establishment to understand (even have a go at) rap or hip hop is like trying to juggle tripe (no pun intended). As soon as there is a whiff of acceptance the genre will morph again.

Sooner or later our language (I know language is an ever evolving thing) will be so denigrated that Oxbridge, if it doesn't already, will be offering a chair for texting and rapping.

What a shame poetry isn't to be seen as a wonderful vehicle for improving the English language and the vocabulary of the aspiring young writers of the future.

As a postscript, a clearer prompt for the future of Ms CAD could not be made. Perhaps a job-swap Simon?

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