The Unaccompanied: Poems

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With concrete imagery and devastating, whip-crack final lines on nearly every poem, Simon Armitage’s new collection, The Unaccompanied, is a poetic punch to the gut. Each poem spins the way only good poems can: they ensnare and set free at the same time. Armitage conjures common objects—matchsticks, bones, balloons—that set the reader smack in the middle of a landscape desolate and empty save for, it seems, hope. In “I Kicked a Mushroom,” the speaker feels serious remorse at this assault on vegetation, positing that this one action shows “the gods what I am.” This kind of self-awareness is in nearly every line of every poem.

In another poem, “The Empire,” the speaker reflects on what it was like to work in a place known for beauty at night but “shame and sleaze” in the afternoon. The title seems to not only refer to an old dance hall but also to what the world once was: beautiful and graceful until viewed too closely. A rumination on age, perhaps, or just the wisdom that comes with seeing all that we once loved decay.

There is humor, here, too. The collection’s opening poem, “Last Snowman,” depicts the final days of a construction gone to melt, “a clay pipe” in a mouth “that was pure stroke victim.” While the imagery is arresting, maybe even off-putting to some, it’s hard not to see the wry hilarity of it, the way we create totems to a season—or, perhaps, to a belief—and then watch them run away with the sun, the tide, the new passing fancy.

Ultimately that is what The Unaccompanied: Poems seems to do best: it pulls our simplest daily lives into minute focus and asks us to see beyond the surface, to see what is really there, and what yet could be.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 96 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2017-Aug-01
ISBN 9781524732424 Buy this Book
Issue October 2017
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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