In Our Tenth Year – Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage is one of the most popular 1960s- born poets. His poetry is marked by robust energy, contemporary subject matter and the use of a casual street lingo. For many, he is the face of modern unstuffy poetry and this quality has seen his poetry being frequently anthologized. Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and Tony Harrison were his idols when it came to poetry. He was awarded CBE for his contributions to English poetry.
Simon Armitage writes in this poem of a relationship that has lasted ten years during the course of which it has changed, growing stronger and more balanced. It had been a less than perfect relationship at the beginning. Even now if it is under stress it can ‘bleed’ like the pressed harebell flower does. But it has now become a lot more robust. Their earlier disagreements were many: his wife was specific in her complaints and he had a fund of sophisticated lies. After ten years have gone by, they are quite surprised at the strength of feeling between them. They are sure of each other’s love even when they are separate. Since they are so confident of this relationship, they should stop keeping it like a pressed flower, confined to a narrow space.
This poem explores the growth of a relationship over ten years. The relationship compared to a pressed harebell still has the capacity to bleed if put under stress. But it is surprisingly robust now, and capable of sustaining itself further. The relationship had gone through turbulent times with the female partner being very specific in her complaints and the poet inventive with his lies. But now, they trust each other fully even when they are apart. It is now time to let the relationship into the open and allow it to develop as an organic thing rather keeping it imprisoned.
The harebell which has been pressed between the leaves of a book resembles the relationship between the poet and his partner. The flower is not yet dry and if pressed hard enough exudes or ‘bleeds’ a pale color just the way their relationship can. The relationship was far from perfect and any stress on it caused it to bleed as though it was a living thing.
They have had disagreements aplenty: she was specific with her complaints remembering dates, names and time even. He kept up with his polished lies.
That the two are still together surprises them. Not just that, but their love has grown considerably. Even when they are apart, they are confident of each other.
It is time they eased the control they have over the relationship so that like an organic thing it fades or it grows further. It is strong enough to survive even if they do not nurture it all the time.
The language here has the easy rhythm of everyday spoken language. It is not overtly poetic, there are no wrought similes or comparisons. The subject matter is contemporary and the idiom, not stuffy.