Category Archives: Privet

Simon Armitage: Privet

Images of crypts and death and being sent to hell but ending with a beautiful magical moment (though still with a little pain in it) of being “released to the universe, buried in sky.”. This reminded me SOOOOO much of Raymond Carver, one of my favorite authors.

We never learn what he did wrong, but it’s not important other than we know right away this is a child who is in trouble and is being punished. And this child-like look at the basement of being a place of death and mystery is similar to my own experiences growing up and heading down to the basement. But on a deeper level he must go get the tools of death to trim the overgrown hedge so that it can prosper and in the end be a place of dreams. This is similar to Milton’s description of Eden as being overgrown and needing to be tended by (as yet unfallen) Adam and Eve who were created because Heaven had lost a third of her host. And so they do the work of death, but without any knowledge of it, yet.

The connection to tools in interesting, too with “an oiled rivet that rolled like a slow eye,” as if he is being watched and judged – which he is by the end of the poem. The tools are probably his father’s but are probably even older so there is a connection to the people in his family whom have trimmed this hedge for perhaps generations.

And that ending! Floating there with the “needling spokes and spikes,” – a dream, but a cautionary tale that great dreams come through hard work, that failure can lead to success, and simply that there is magical beauty in everyday life, “Then for no reason except / for the sense that comes from doing a thing / for its own sake”. Not everything has to be explained.