cover image Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

Simon Armitage. Norton/Liveright, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-87140-416-9

In the summer of 2010, award-winning poet Armitage decided to embrace the life of his forebears and take up the life%E2%80%94at least for a short while%E2%80%94of a wandering poet. Over 19 days, he resolutely, and mostly joylessly, marched along the Pennine Way in England, a 256-mile long "gantry running down the backbone of the country offering countless possibilities for perspectives and encounters" with new territories and new people. Terrified of loneliness, dogs, and weirdoes that he might meet along the way, Armitage trades his mess of pottage%E2%80%94his poetry%E2%80%94for a bed every night along the path, and before he sets out he makes arrangements to give poetry readings at various stops. In Uswayford, he reads in a lounge bar where every machine in the background hums to life, and where "in the presence of the spoken word, the scrape of the knife against plate or the opening of a packet of salted peanuts are nuclear explosions." As Armitage readily admits, "the Pennine Way is a pointless exercise, leading from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular... but to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up the challenge against the self." It's too bad that reading Armitage's dreary, cheerless, and pointless memoir leads from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, offering little insight either into his own journey, his life as a poet, or the ways that the walk challenged his life or his self-understanding. (Mar.)