Whilst on the face of it ‘Kid’, by Simon Armitage, is a simple comic poem (I laughed a lot whilst reading it) in many ways if you look beneath the theme the poem is in fact a metaphor for younger people stepping out of the shadow of people that they have been playing second fiddle to. It’s about people realizing they are worth more and that sometimes the person that is ostensibly the “sidekick” in a relationship could well be the one who is in fact carrying the relationship. The language used in this poem draws on informal colloquialisms but from varying regions, perhaps this is to signify the idea of finding yourself. The narrator is trying on voices in effect.
Form and Tone
‘Kid’ is a monologue and is presented in one single stanza, consisting of just five sentences. These large sentences mean there are lots of enjambment lines. The poem is ostensibly about Robin, of “Batman and Robin” fame, becoming estranged from Batman. The rhyming pattern is strictly adhered too and means each line ends in an “er” sound. This may well be to imitate the theme tune to the Batman TV show that famously went “dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner etc.” each line is ten syllables long meaning that the poem is written in iambic pentameter.
Armitage’s ‘Kid’ can be read in full here.
Analysis of Kid, line by line
Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
The narrator (Robin) begins by calling Batman a “big shot” this phrase could be considered complementary but oftentimes when the phrase big shot is uttered in the modern world it is done so sarcastically.
There is a subtle pun in this line of ‘Kid’. As the word wander is used. Robin is referred to as the boy wonder. This is an example of a homophone being used for effect.
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
Colors are used frequently in many of Armitage’s poems and often give a very visual element to his poetry.
Here the poem turns and we see how Robin truly feels about his mentor. It is clear at this point that the “big shot” descriptor used in the first line was indeed meant scornfully as Batman’s “order” for Robin to find himself was actually Batman trying to get rid of Robin, or at least that is how Robin sees it.
in the gutter … well, I turned the corner.
Robin is obviously proud of his progression since he separated from Batman and as the poem continues we will see why.
Scorched is a very powerful verb to use here. I think that signifies the intensity of Robin’s feelings.
to me’ rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
The phrase “blown the cover” Is a pun of sorts, making reference to the fact that superheroes (batman and robin included) have cover stories.
Here is another suggestion that a lot of people considered Batman and Robin’s relationship to be like that of a family.
story, let the cat out on that caper
Once again we see that this poem is full of double meanings as the word caper here could refer to the capes that the two superheroes both wear. The use of Cat could be a subtle reference to cat woman? (doubtful, but I’m a geek o had to mention it!)
Here the poem takes another turn as Robin starts making accusations about relations Batman had with a married woman. The phrase “how you took her” could be considered very risqué although it runs onto the next line and is slightly more innocent then first imagined.
downtown on expenses in the motor.
This line is very clever as it makes being a superhero sound like it is a job, talking about taking the woman out on “expenses” makes it sound like it’s going on the company tab. It’s quite quirky how Robin refers to the Batmobile quite casually as “the motor” perhaps emphasizing the level of disdain he now has for what he used to do and be.
The suggestion here is that Robin has inherited some money perhaps? Maybe this is why he is able to finally break away from Batman. Although this line is presented comically and sarcastically, mocking the way Robin used to speak. Perhaps the fact he can make fun of himself in this way is an example of how much more grown-up he has become?
Holy roll-me-over-in the-clover,
This line of ‘Kid’ is a brilliant euphemism for sex and is clearly referencing batman’s aforementioned tryst with a married woman.
This is Robin’s way of saying he is no longer playing second fiddle to Batman.
Batman, now I’ve doffed that off-the-shoulder
Doffed is like the opposite of donned and is a neat description of Robin ditching his trademark attire.
Robin Mocks what he used to wear by describing it effeminately in the style that you might expect clothes in a fashion magazine described.
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
Robin has clearly embraced life away from the super hero lifestyle by wearing regular, casual clothes.
Robin once again points to his own growth and personal development with a quadruple collection of adjectives to emphasize his point.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
Once again, this probably isn’t the case, but the word marvelous maybe a reference to marvel, the comic company that are the main rival to DC comics who own the rights to the Batman franchise.
Robin refers to himself as having been Batman’s shadow. Does this effectively mean that Robin has been in his shadow?
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
This is a very humble meal and makes allusions to how Batman has fallen since he was left by Robin.
Whilst on the face of it the “next to nothing” is a reference to a lack of food, it could be Robin’s way of asserting what Batman is without him.
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
When Batman used to have an idea in the TV series he would punch his hand. I think Robin is suggesting that Batman is struggling to think up plans by himself.
Robin is accusing batman of being a baby, which in itself is quite a childish and dismissive phrase. But whilst it is meant to belittle Batman does it in fact highlight that perhaps Robin hasn’t come quite as far as he might like to think. That isn’t a particularly witty thing to say and is the retort of someone lacking in maturity. Perhaps the final line is steeped in irony that The Boy Wonder hasn’t figured out that he still has some way to go!
About Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage is a Yorkshire poet whose work is well studied in English schools with many of his poems appearing on the GCSE syllabus for many of the examining boards. Armitage’s poetry often contains informal language and colloquialisms: as is the case with ‘Kid’. One of Armitage’s trademarks is to use his poetry in order to make the reader see things from a different perspective or viewpoint.