By poetry standards, Simon Armitage is one of Britain’s most successful poets, with some 11 collections and numerous recognitions and awards. But his career has embraced far more than poetry. He’s written for opera, theatre, radio, television, and film. He’s published two novels and two travel books. He’s edited poetry anthologies. And he has translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from Middle to modern English, a work recognized by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as a book of the year.
You might think that translated from Middle to modern English shouldn’t be that difficult, until you try to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original. What is curious about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a separate poem found in the manuscript with it, a poem simply called Pearl. It is the only known version of the poem in existence, and the manuscript is kept safely at the British Library in London.
No one know who the author of the poem might be. It’s possible that it’s also the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, since it was found in the same manuscript and clearly written or transcribed by the same hand.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
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