Simon Armitage comes full circle with Professor of Poetry post


World-renowned poet Simon Armitage has been announced as the University of Leeds’ first Professor of Poetry.

Professor Armitage returns to the School of English 20 years after taking up his first academic post, when he taught creative writing to Leeds students following an earlier career as a probation officer.

With more than 25 anthologies and numerous awards and prizes to his name, Professor Armitage enjoys huge popularity across the world. His work is now studied by students of all ages.

At Leeds, where the University Library is already home to the poet’s archive, he will be contributing to a range of courses, teaching undergraduates and post-graduates, as well as working with a wide range of academics across the University – and developing links across the city and beyond. The new part-time post is permanent.

Professor Armitage said: “I am honoured to have been appointed Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds.

“I have a longstanding relationship with the University, through my very first teaching job and my connection with the Library, and am delighted to be joining such an ambitious and prestigious University.

“The School of English at Leeds has a long and proud poetic tradition; it also greatly values contemporary literature, and in what are exciting times for poetry, I am looking forward to working with an institution which does so much to support and encourage new writing from both within and outside the University.”

I am looking forward to working with an institution which does so much to support and encourage new writing.

Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry

Dr Fiona Becket, Head of the School of English, said: “Current and future students for many years to come will be extremely excited to have the opportunity to hear and talk to Simon, and to be taught by him. Simon’s presence in the School of English speaks volumes about the importance of literary creativity alongside excellence in scholarship and research.”

Professor John Whale, Director of the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, said: “It’s wonderful to welcome back to Leeds a poet of international standing and with such a deep imaginative affinity to Yorkshire.”

Professor Armitage’s first formal engagement at Leeds will come during the University’s next open day for prospective undergraduates and their families this Saturday, when he will give a series of short readings to potential School of English students. A new BA in English Literature with Creative Writing is set to enrol its first students in autumn 2018.

Professor Armitage, who was born and continues to live in West Yorkshire, is a poet, writer, translator and broadcaster. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, most recently the PEN Award for Translation for his reworking of the medieval poem, Pearl. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the recipient of an Ivor Novello Award for song-writing, a BAFTA and a CBE for services to poetry.

In June 2015, the same year he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Leeds, he was elected as the University of Oxford’s Professor of Poetry, a position he will continue to hold until 2019. His predecessor in that role was Geoffrey Hill, a former professor of English at the University of Leeds, who died last year.

Simon's new role will enhance the reputation of both the University and of Leeds, as the city prepares to submit its bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023

Professor Frank Finlay, Cultural Institute Director

Professor Frank Finlay is Executive Dean of Leeds’ Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures and Director of its new Cultural Institute. He said: “We have been very impressed by Simon’s enthusiastic approach to reaching out to a wide range of people and organisations on and off campus.

“I have long admired Simon's work, so it is a great thrill as well as a privilege to welcome such an accomplished and internationally esteemed literary artist to Leeds. His new role will enhance the reputation of both the University and of Leeds, as the city prepares to submit its bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023.”

Professor Armitage’s appointment is the latest in a long tradition of support for poetry and other creative endeavour by University of Leeds. This tradition includes the Gregory Fellows in Poetry from 1950-1980 and continues today with the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellows in the School of English, who in recent years have numbered award-winning poets Helen Mort, Malika Booker and, most recently, Vahni Capildeo.

The University Library’s Special Collections have been home to Professor Armitage’s literary archive for more than 20 years, with papers in it stretching back to 1984, when the poet was just 21. He spoke about his attitude to the archiving process as part of this BBC Radio 4 programme, The Brotherton Archive and Me.

Further information

For further information and interviews, contact Gareth Dant, Media Relations Manager in the University of Leeds press office, on 0113 343 3996 or email

A film of Professor Armitage’s honorary graduation ceremony can be viewed here: (he reads his poem, Zoom, from 5m 38s).