Guardian profile of Simon Armitage - includes Morrissey mentions (April 8, 2023)

The Guardian has a long profile of / interview with the poet Simon Armitage, and of course Morrissey comes up.

Relevant sections below:

In 2010, the Guardian commissioned him to interview his then hero, Morrissey, the controversial solo artist and former frontman of the Smiths. It was a memorable interview, not least because Morrissey described the Chinese as a “subspecies” in reference to their treatment of animals. It provided Armitage with a great scoop, but he shudders when asked about the interview and says he’d prefer not to talk about it.
The Guardian had effectively sent a poet to interview a poet. Photographs were taken of the two nose to nose. But Morrissey wasn’t having any of it. He refused to allow the photos to be used, and there was a reshoot with Morrissey wearing a cat on his head instead. The pop star treated the poet with contempt. It was disillusioning for Armitage, at best.

and, right near the end:

If I need to check stuff with you, I say, how do I get in touch. He starts to spell out his email. Have you got a phone number? “Er, no,” he says. Then he remembers his phone, propped up in the breast of his coat like a pocket square. “I never answer the phone anyway, so there’s no point in ringing me.” As Morrissey did with him, he makes it clear that this has not been a meeting of equals. In the very next sentence he returns to his meeting with the musician that left him feeling so diminished all those years ago. “When I interviewed Morrissey, right at the end he said, ‘Have you got one last question and you better make it a good one?’ And I said, ‘Can you drive?’ And he said to me, ‘D’you think that’s a good question?’ So erm, what’s your last question, Simon, because I’m going home? I can drive by the way.”
I ask a question half-heartedly, and the answer doesn’t register. I’m thinking about what he said about his father – his humour, his hospitality, his warmth. I imagine I would have liked his dad very much.


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A Guardian interview some years prior to this, where the journalist is cautioned not to raise the issue of ‘the court case’ (in the end Morrissey brings it up himself), seemed a bit frosty.

I think Morrissey’s initial contention was with the paper rather than Armitage. But the whole smug conceit—of sending a poet to interview Morrissey—probably riled him prior to the event.

The funniest thing was Armitage handing Morrissey a book; then Morrissey shakes out the concealed CD ‘gift’ of the former reading his own work (I think). ‘Is this yours?’ says Morrissey as he hands it back.

The rest is history: Armitage scurries to The Queen, to try and recover some parity.
Nice post .
I went back and read the interview years later and it's very funny . You can tell M just thinks Simon is a wanker and probably the very Smiths fan he has tried to get rid of for all these years
Armitage is a heck of a poet. Probably best known for his modern translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Death of Arthur. No need to dismiss somebody b/c you never heard of them - but maybe that's a very Morrissey thing to do, isn't it?
I think the M fans dislike Simon not because he said something nasty about M but because he really is one of those jealous fans , who forgot all the good M did for them, the happy shit he gave them and stabbed him in the fecking back back for their own gain. Probably just cause the Observer told them to.
I forgot to say that, when interviewing Marr, Simon recalls his Morrissey interview and says that, when he assured M that he was genuinely interested in whether or not he was able to drive, M asks 'Why? Do you think it's because I'm incapable of handling large pieces of machinery?' He seems to find it amusing rather than uncomfortable as suggested by this new Guardian interview.
The observer did the article didn't they ?
Can't remember now . Same difference .

Anyway I do remember reading that Simon said he didn't think M was being racist a few days after the article came out but nobody cared about that . The damage was done
I'm not very impressed with Armitage as a supposed fan of The Smiths, or even as a bright person. I've probably said this before but when he intervied Marr for BBC Radio 4 in July 2021, Marr starts to play Half A Person and Simon asks 'Call me lazy, call me shy, is it?', when any serious fan knows that the opening line is 'Call me morbid, call me pale', and the line is even repeated twice later in the song. The interview's on YouTube if anyone's interested.
Oh fecking good catch .
Simon struck me as a fan like the singer from Gene was a fan . They liked the image M had and wanted what he had but they didn't really connect with him.
I expect Simon is just an indie fan and Smiths are one of the bands he likes . Rather than being a hardcore fan like us .
You are right most people know those lyrics even passing fans
Out of context, some of the second excerpt that sounds like it's Morrissey talking, is actually Simon Armitage talking. Also, for instance, when I read only the excerpt, I thought the phone was in Morrissey's pocket, but it's in Simon's. This is made more confusing because Simon (Armitage) at one point addresses Simon (Hattenstone), the interviewer, by his first name. I say this because, reading the excerpt only, and mistaking much of what referred to Simon Armitage as referring to Morrissey, I thought, "Oh no, another case of Morrissey acting like a dick." Then I read the article itself.

Context is important, folks. Etc.
i thought it was M who had the phone as well,so simon armitage has a phone that he never answers,and people think M is weird.
He (Simon Armitage) wrote me a lovely letter after I'd sent him some of my (bloody awful) poetry, in 1993.

I don't think Armitage was out to "get" Morrissey in the 2010 interview. It seems more like they rubbed each other up the wrong way. The frustrating thing about that article was the way it was written / edited, so you rarely get any flow of the conversation between them. This whole section, for example:

Morrissey on other singers: "They have two or three melodies and they repeat them ad nauseam over the course of 28 albums." Morrissey on people: "They are problems." And on the charts: "Nothing any more to do with talent or gift or cleverness or originality. Every new artist flies in at number one, but in terms of live music they couldn't fill a telephone box." And shockingly, on the Chinese: "Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies." Neither is he impressed with Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner ("an NME creation") or George Alagiah (an unspecified complaint signalled with a roll of the eyes), and his views on the royal family would have seen him hanged in former times.

We have no idea what questions (if any) prompted those responses from Morrissey. Maybe Armitage was trying to get Morrissey to say provocative things, or maybe Morrissey was in a particular mood and found it entertaining. Either way, for a seemingly flippant comment, that one sentence about the Chinese has been used against him endlessly, as we all know...
Let's face it - "can you drive?"....what kind of stupid question is this? :D
Moz couldn't drive during the Smiths years so I wondered if Armitage was hoping/ expecting that he might say "No" and then planning to offer him a lift / drive him around listening to that poetry CD 😂

Driving in your car
I really, really want to go home
Didn't want to hear your
Bloody poetry
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I think we've all come to realise the Chinese are a sub species when it comes to their treatment of animals, weger muslims, their own citizens and oh um yeah, the entire f***ing world if you haven't caught up on the latest news for the past three years. I really am over any offense China might feel over his comment.
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The write-up by Simon Armitage of the interview with M wasn't very spectacular in terms of real content - and probably, by the looks of it, his questions weren't very spectacular either. It could have been much more, poet meets poet, and they could have talked about their writing process, inspiration, what arts could really mean in this day and age, etc.
If I found it to be limitlessly boring, I imagine M certainly must have found it undeservedly boring. The picture with Fanny the Bengal cat on his head was surely the highlight of the whole piece ...

There are moments when it could have become something, but apparently there was a list of questions that needed an answer, rather than a train of thought that could have been pursued.
The bit about animals was included in the article but it gets missed by everyone else when they try to quote Morrissey, just leaving it at the “chinese are a sub-species” with no further explanation.

Morrissey has said a lot of shit but I do think he explained himself at the time with this quote, it was part of the same sentence yet most people skip the “when it comes to the treatment of animals” section of the sentence.
And then it turned out he actually was just a racist.

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