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I Say I Say I Say -- Simon Armitage

Guest poem submitted by Victoria Paterson:
(Poem #596) I Say I Say I Say
 Anyone here had a go at themselves
 for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
 with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
 at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
 in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
 let's show that inch of lacerated skin
 between the forearm and the fist. Let's tell it
 like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
 round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
 washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
 A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
 A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
 picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
 repeat with me the punch line 'Just like blood'
 when those at the back rush forward to say
 how a little love goes a long long long way.
-- Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage is a British poet, aged in (I think) either late twenties or
very early thirties. He has published several collections of poetry, and two
novels (one with another poet called Glyn Maxwell). I suppose, critically
speaking, this isn't his best poem , but it's one of my favorite poems. I
don't know if Armitage has ever attempted suicide, but to me, someone who
has, this poem speaks volumes. I don't know if there's a lot to say about it
- it speaks for itself, I think.


[thomas adds]

A poem that's more than a little reminiscent of Sylvia Plath - witness these
lines in Lady Lazarus: "Dying / Is an art, like everything else. / I do it
exceptionally well. ".

[Britannica on confessional literature]

Confession: in literature, an autobiography, either real or fictitious, in
which intimate and hidden details of the subject's life are revealed. The
first outstanding example of the genre was the Confessions of St. Augustine
(c. AD 400), a painstaking examination of Augustine's progress from juvenile
sinfulness and youthful debauchery to conversion to Christianity and the
triumph of the spirit over the flesh. Others include the Confessions of an
English Opium-Eater (1822), by Thomas De Quincey, focusing on the writer's
early life and his gradual addiction to drug taking, and Confessions
(1782-89), the intimate autobiography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. André Gide
used the form to great effect in such works as Si le grain ne meurt (1920
and 1924; If It Die...), an account of his life from birth to marriage.

Such 20th-century poets as John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and
Anne Sexton wrote poetry in the confessional vein, revealing intensely
personal, often painful perceptions and feelings.

        -- EB

28 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Anonymous said...

I love Simon's use of irony and sarcasim in this poem. Armitage uses "thoes at the back" to symbolize thoes of us who stand by as though everyone is okay and "thoes at the front, in the know" are the ones who have lived through the terror of being a cutter. Armitage is using this poem to tell the victims to be honest and stop hiding what they have done to themselves. Simon is also telling bystanders to show compassion and reach out to thoes that live in situations like this on a daily basis. This poem is much more positive and truthful than one who only skims it would see. Armitage's use of verbal irony may seem dull and pointless but, in reality, it makes the situation seem all the more serious. I love Simon Armitage's poetry because there is always a deeper meaning that was intended for the in-between the lines reader.

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