Simon Armitage was born in Marsden, West Yorkshire. Armitage first studied at Colne Valley High School, Linthwaite, Huddersfield and went on to study geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic. He was a post-graduate student at Manchester University where his MA thesis concerned the effects of television violence on young offenders. Until 1994 he worked as Probation Officer in Greater Manchester. He then lectured on creative writing at both the University of Leeds and at the University of Iowa, writers' workshop. He is currently a senior lecturer in the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.
He lives in West Yorkshire and is a supporter of Huddersfield Town F.C. and Huddersfield Giants rugby league team.
Armitage's poetry collections include Book of Matches (1993) and The Dead Sea Poems (1995). He has written two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as All Points North (1998), a collection of essays on the north of England. He produced a dramatised version of Homer's Odyssey and a collection of poetry entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid (which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize), both of which were published in July 2006. Many of Armitage's poems appear in the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) GCSE syllabus for English Literature in the United Kingdom. Some of these include: "Homecoming", "November", "Kid", "Hitcher", and a selection of poems from Book of Matches, most notably of these "Mother any distance...". His writing is characterised by a dry, native Yorkshire wit combined with "an accessible, realist style and critical seriousness."
Armitage also writes for radio, television, film and stage. He is the author of four stage plays, including Mister Heracles, a version of Euripides' The Madness of Heracles. He was commissioned in 2004 by the National Theatre in London to write Eclipse for the Connections series, a play based on the disappearance of a girl in Hebden Bridge at the time of the 1999 solar eclipse in Cornwall. Most recently he wrote the libretto for an opera scored by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae, The Assassin Tree, based on a Greek myth recounted in The Golden Bough. The opera premiered at the 2006 Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland, before moving to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Saturday Night (Century Films, BBC2, 1996) — wrote and narrated a fifty minute poetic commentary to a documentary about night-life in Leeds. Directed by Brian Hill. In 2010, Armitage walked the 264 mile Pennine Way, walking South from Scotland to Derbyshire. Along the route he stopped to give poetry readings, often in exchange for donations of money, food or accommodation and is writing a book about his journey.
He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including The Sunday Times Author of the Year, a Forward Prize, a Lannan Award, and an Ivor Novello Award for his song lyrics in the Channel 4 film Feltham Sings. Kid and CloudCuckooLand were short-listed for the Whitbread poetry prize. The Dead Sea Poems was short-listed for the Whitbread, the Forward Poetry Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize. The Universal Home Doctor was also short-listed for the T.S. Eliot. In 2000, he was the UK's official Millennium Poet and went on to judge the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize, the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize.
In 2004, Armitage was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. He is a vice president of the Poetry Society and a patron of the Arvon Foundation.