Dennis O’Driscoll, 27 April 2000
Simon Armitage likes to have it both ways. He is the streetwise poet who is at home in a Radio 1 studio; but he is also the ambitious literary figure who aspires to ‘nothing less’ than a Nobel Prize. He is at ease with youth culture (‘I didn’t have a classical education of any type, so I tend to use characters from popular culture’), yet, far from stoking rebellion, he writes tenderly of his parents and looks up to Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden. Asked to nominate his Book of the Century last year, he plumped for Waiting for Godot. The idea of Armitage in Beckettian exile, refusing to grant media interviews, is about as plausible as ‘Chaucer at his laptop,/auto-checking his screenplay proposal for spelling and style’ or ‘Shakespeare making/an arse of himself for Children in Need or Sesame Street’, two of the scenarios conjured up in Killing Time (a long poem that is calculated to appeal to a literary audience without alienating those for whom Shakespeare and Chaucer are just heavyweight names in a pub quiz).