Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Huddersfield, England. After studying Geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic, he worked with young offenders before gaining a postgraduate qualification in social work at Manchester University. He worked as a probation officer in Oldham until 1994. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 2019, succeeding Carol Ann Duffy.
A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published many collections of poetry, including Zoom! (1989) and Xanadu (1992) with Bloodaxe, and then Kid (1992), Book of Matches (1993), The Dead Sea Poems (1995), CloudCuckooLand (1997), Killing Time (1999), The Universal Home Doctor (2002), Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (2006), Seeing Stars (2010), Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989-2014 (2014), The Unaccompanied (2017), Sandettie Light Vessel (2019), and Automatic and Magnetic Field: The Marsden Poems (2020), along with several translations, all with Faber. Zoom! was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for a Whitbread Poetry Award.
Simon Armitage has worked extensively in film, radio and television. He wrote and presented Xanadu (1992), a 'poem film for television', broadcast by BBC television as part of the 'Words on Film' series, and his film about the American poet Weldon Kees was broadcast by the BBC in 1993. He also wrote and narrated Saturday Night, a documentary about Leeds, and Drinking for England, both broadcast by the BBC in 1996 as part of the 'Modern Times' series. Moon Country (1996), written with Glyn Maxwell, retraced a visit to Iceland in 1936 by the poets W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, and was adapted as a six-part series, Second Draft from Saga Land, broadcast by BBC Radio 3. Out of the Blue (2008) collects three pieces written in response to the anniversaries of three conflicts: a film-poem about 9/11; a piece commissioned by Channel 5 for VE Day and a radio poem on Cambodia 30 years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
He is also the author of All Points North (1998), a collection of essays about the north of England; Gig (2008), a memoir of a life of music and poetry; two novels Little Green Man (2001) and White Stuff (2004); and two books chronicling his walks across Britain, Walking Home (2012) on the Pennine Way, and Walking Away (2015) on the South West Coast Path.
Simon Armitage is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford for 2015-2019. He also taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop and at Manchester Metropolitan University before his 2011 appointment as Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. He was made a CBE for services to poetry in 2010. In 2012, as an artist in residence at London's Southbank Centre, he conceived and curated Poetry Parnassus, a gathering of world poets and poetry from every Olympic nation as part of Britain's Cultural Olympiad, a landmark event generally recognised as the biggest coming together of international poets in history, documented in the Bloodaxe anthology, The World Record, for which he wrote the introduction.
Simon Armitage was awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2018, and in May 2019 was appointed Poet Laureate.