Skip to main content

We are open online for business, even though all our library buildings are closed
Please see our news story for more information

Poems: 'Cotton Grass', second draft

SA_Walking Home/1
In 2010 Simon Armitage spent 19 days walking the 256 mile Pennine Way as a 'modern troubadour'. This online resource presents archive material relating to the walk and creation of Walking Home, held by Special Collections.
More
Simon Armitage describes writing 'Walking Home'
More
SA_Walking Home archive materials
A summary of the Walking Home archive materials
More
Armitage Harmonium proposa
Details of book proposal 1
More
Armitage Walking Home Proposal doc
Details of book proposal 2
More
SA_Walking Home Red Notebook
introduction to the red notebook
More
Walking Home SA/8
prose diary entry for day 0
More
Walking Home SA/13
prose diary entry for day 1
More
SA_Walking Home/126
Prose diary entry for day 15
More
SA_Walking Away/162
red notebook poems introduction
More
SA_Walking Home/18
first draft of the poem 'Cotton Grass'
More
SA_Walking Home/31
second draft of the poem 'Cotton Grass'
More
SA_Walking Home first proof/287
second draft of the poem 'Cotton Grass' continued
More
SA_Walking Home_74
blank page entry headed 'fell ponies'
More
SA_Walking Home/130
Comparison of three types of writing referring to black huts.
More
SA_Walking Home/134
Notes on the changing imagery of 'Above Ickornshaw, Black Huts'
More
Armitage Notebook Black Huts
Notes on the importance of landscape for the poem
More
SA_Walking Home/108
Notes on the importance of poetic influences
More
Walking Home SA_162
writing themes listed at the back of the red notebook
More
SA_Walking Home/Glossop Audience
introduction to the Walking Home photograps
More
SA_Walking Home/slug088
Walking Home photographs as visual narrative
More
SA_Walking Home/digital_image/21
Walking Home: poetry as travel guide
More
writing themes listed at the back of the red notebook
More
Further reading material for Walking Home.
More

Drafts of ‘Cotton Grass’ show how certain phrases were retained from initial poetic idea to final publication, but how others were crucially altered.

The two active presences of the poem are the grasses themselves and the ‘parade’ of walkers who pass them. The grasses are personified as ‘hand-maidens’ and ‘courtiers’: courtly and pacific attendants. In contrast, the walkers appear dehumanised. As ‘boots and sticks’ they are reduced to walking accessories which are themselves ambiguous – equally suggestive of rambling and violent confrontation.

On Day 12 of the notebook Armitage writes he ‘find[s] it extraordinary the number of people I pass […] Not even a grunt or a nod, not interested in people or stories or even, judging by the intensity of their stare at the ground – the journey. Only in the accomplishment and the destination.’

This notion is prefigured in ‘Cotton Grass’ and emphasised in the change from ‘royal convoy of boots and sticks’ in draft 1 to ‘the military convoy / of boot and stick’ in draft 2. The loss of the plural (boots, sticks) and the move from royal to military evokes the sense of a single, potentially aggressive, unit of unbending purpose.