Walking Away by Simon Armitage
June 24, 2015, Article by Tom in Books Worth Staring At
The book: Walking Away by Simon Armitage
Published: 2015, by Faber & Faber
Why we loved it: A few years ago, Simon Armitage, the new Professor of Poetry at Oxford, walked the Pennine Way. Backwards. And with no money. This challenging 250-plus mile trek took him from the Peak District back towards his home town of Marsden in West Yorkshire, stopping each night in various towns, villages and hamlets to give poetry readings, and handing round an old sock so that punters could contribute however much they felt his performance was worth. The account of that journey, Walking Home, was a beautiful piece of travel writing. Nice cover too.
Although that walk sounded, quite frankly, knackering, Simon has repeated the trick in Walking Away, although this time he’s left his home patch and instead tackles the South West Coast Path, busking his way through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. It’s very much a companion piece to the first book, and, although there are no great surprises, if you’ve ever been taken in by Armitage’s droll turns of phrase and witty, self-depreciating asides, you’ll find much to enjoy here. The rugged coastal landscape he is traversing, and the gradual middle-aged breakdown of his knees, feet and, ahem, groin are described vividly, and the passage where he learns of the sad passing of his good friend Seamus Heaney is also very tender.
If you were to criticize, then perhaps Walking Away could do with a few more poems. But overall this is just as engaging, enlightening and charming as its predecessor.