Simon Armitage was born in Marsden, West Yorkshire in 1963. He studied Geography at Portsmouth and Psychology at Manchester University, qualifying as a social worker and working in the Probation Service. He also found temporary employment as a shelf-stacker, lathe-operator and disc jockey. His varied career has been the source of a lot of his poetry. He is now a published and acclaimed poet, teacher of creative writing and broadcaster.
The poem, ‘Hitcher’, takes the form of a dramatic monologue, spoken by a man who, for reasons not made explicit, picks up a hitch-hiker before assaulting him and pushing him out of the moving car.
The speaker, who himself hitches to the rental car he uses, seems to envy the hitcher’s apparent freedom. While the speaker receives answerphone messages threatening him about losing his job, the hitcher follows “the sun from west to east.” There’s an unresolved, awkward symmetry between the two which drives the poem to a frightening, unresolved conclusion.
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This poem comes from Simon Artmitages' Book of Matches but is a longer poem than the “matches” - and has its own title.
It is a monologue of sorts, in which a man confesses to murder. We notice that he is at once like, and yet unlike, his victim. Briefly, the speaker in the poem has been taking time off work - feigning illness and not answering his phone. Being threatened with the sack (losing his job), he goes in to work again. He gets a lift to his hired car (a short distance we suppose). As he drives out of Leeds he picks up a hitchhiker who is travelling light and has no set destination. Some little way later (coming out of Harrogate) he attacks his passenger, and throws him out of the still-moving car. The last he sees of the hiker, he is “bouncing off the kerb, then disappearing down the verge” - we do not know if he is dead or just badly injured. The driver does not care.I'd been tired, under the weather, but the ansaphone kept screaming. One more sick-note. mister, and you're finished. Fired. I thumbed a lift to where the car was parked. A Vauxhall Astra. It was hired. I picked him up in Leeds. He was following the sun to west from east with just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed. The truth, he said, was blowin' in the wind, or round the next bend. I let him have it on the top road out of Harrogate -once with the head, then six times with the krooklok in the face -and didn't even swerve. I dropped it into third and leant across to let him out, and saw him in the mirror bouncing off the kerb, then disappearing down the verge. We were the same age, give or take a week. He'd said he liked the breeze to run its fingers through his hair. It was twelve noon. The outlook for the day was moderate to fair. Stitch that, I remember thinking, you can walk from there.