On the front cover of my book 'Seeing Stars', there's a photograph of a poodle which has been shaved into the shape of a horse. I found it on a newspaper website, they were doing an article on dog topiary which was very fashionable at the time. Poodle's shaved into many weird and wild shapes, and the horse was probably the least humiliating, but i used that image because the poems in the book are hybrid poems, they are somewhere between poetry and prose. I think of them as little story poems.

The Christening

I am a sperm whale. I carry up to 2.5 tonnes of an oil-like

balm in my huge, coffin-shaped head. I have a brain the

size of a basketball, and on that basis alone am entitled to

my opinions. I am a sperm whale. When I breathe in, the

fluid in my head cools to a dense wax and I nosedive into

the depths. My song, available on audiocassette and

compact disc is a comfort to divorcees, astrologists and

those who have ‘pitched the quavering canvas tent of their

thoughts on the rim of the dark crater’. The oil in my head

is of huge commercial value and has been used by NASA,

for even in the galactic emptiness of deep space it does not

freeze. I am attracted to the policies of the Green Party on

paper but once inside the voting booth my hand is guided

by an unseen force. Sometimes I vomit large chunks of

ambergris. My brother, Jeff, owns a camping and outdoor

clothing shop in the Lake District and is a recreational user

of cannabis. Customers who bought books about me also

bought Do Whales Have Belly Buttons? by Melvin Berger

and street maps of Cardiff. In many ways I have seen it all.

I keep no pets. Lying motionless on the surface I am said

to be ‘logging’, and ‘lobtailing’ when I turn and offer my

great slow fluke to the horizon. Don’t be taken in by the

dolphins and their winning smiles, they are the pickpockets

of the ocean, the gypsy children of the open waters and

they are laughing all the way to Atlantis. On the basis of

‘finders keepers’ I believe the Elgin Marbles should

remain the property of the British Crown. I am my own

God – why shouldn’t I be? The first people to open me up

thought my head was full of sperm, but they were men, and

had lived without women for many weeks, and were far

from home. Stuff comes blurting out.


from Seeing Stars (Faber, 2011), © Simon Armitage 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Simon Armitage in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.


Featured in the archive