Simon Armitage was born on May 26, 1963, in the village of Marsden, in West Yorkshire, England. He received an undergraduate degree from Portsmouth University in geography, followed by a master's degree in social work from Manchester University where he researched the impact of television violence on young offenders. Before he began to write full-time, Armitage worked as probation officer in Greater Manchester for six years.
Armitage is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including The Unaccompanied (Faber & Faber, 2017); Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989-2014 (Faber & Faber, 2014); The Shout: Selected Poems (Harcourt, 2005), which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as a translation of the middle English classic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (W.W. Norton, 2007), and Homer's Odyssey (2006), a retelling of the ancient Greek epic by Homer.
His earlier volumes include Xanadu (1992), Kid (1992), Book of Matches (1993), The Dead Sea Poems (1995), CloudCuckooLand (1997), Killing Time (1999), Travelling Songs (2002), The Universal Home Doctor (2002), and Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (2006).
Widely considered an inheritor of Philip Larkin's dark wit, Armitage has become one of England's most respected poets. A reviewer for the Sunday Times in England wrote: "Armitage creates a muscular but elegant language of his own out of slangy, youthful, up-to-the-minute jargon and the vernacular of his native Northern England. He combines this with an easily worn erudition...and the benefit on unblinkered experience...to produce poems of moving originality."
Armitage is the recipient of numerous awards for poetry, including the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, and a Lannan Award. Several of his collections have been short-listed for the Whitbread Poetry Prize, and his first book, Zoom! (1989), was a Poetry Society Book Choice.
He is the author of two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as the memoir All Points North (1998), a Yorkshire Post Book of the Year. Armitage also writes widely for radio, television, film, and theater. His recent work includes a libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2006, and the play Mister Heracles, a version of the Euripides play, The Madness of Heracles.
Frequently blending genres, his film Xanadu (1992) was described as "a poem film for television," and appeared on BBC television during their "Words on Film" series. He also authored a film about Weldon Kees, and co-wrote Moon Country with Glyn Maxwell, which retraced the 1936 trip to Iceland taken by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice.
Armitage is the coeditor, with Robert Crawford, of The Penguin Anthology of Poetry from Britain and Ireland Since 1945, and also edited Short and Sweet – 101 Very Short Poems, as well as a selection of poetry by Ted Hughes.
In 2019 Armitage was named the poet laureate of the United Kingdom. He teaches at the University of Leeds and currently serves as the Professor of Poetry of the University of Oxford. He has also taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of Sheffield, the University of Falmouth, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Princeton University, among others.