Poem introduction

At the junior school I went to we had a very excitable science teacher and no equipment which was a bit of a bewildering combination. And he used to give us these little missions - they weren't experiments they were more like missions. And one day he asked me and another kid to go outside and not come back into the school until we'd measured the size of the human voice without any equipment. So we devised this little experiment - we decided that we would keep moving further and further apart and shouting at each other until we couldn't hear each other any longer and that would be the size of the human voice. Unfortunately the village we lived in wasn't that big and there came this point when this other kid just fell off the edge into Lancashire or some dark place and it's at that moment when the science breaks down that I try and get poetry to rush in and fill the gap.

The Shout

The Shout

We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face

I don't remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth

I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.

He called from over the park - I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,

from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm -
I lifted an arm.

He left town, went on to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.

Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.

from The Universal Home Doctor (Faber & Faber, 2004), copyright © Simon Armitage 2004, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage Reading from His Poems

1The Shout

2All For One

3Chainsaw versus the Pampas Grass

4The Twang

5The Laughing Stock



8The Summerhouse

9Working from Home

10Two Clocks

11The Back Man

12The Keep


14Horses, M62

15You're Beautiful

16A Glory

17The Tyre


Books by Simon Armitage