Armitage was born in 1963 in the West Yorkshire village of Marsden. He studied Geography at Portsmouth University. As a post-graduate student at Manchester University his MA thesis concerned the effects of television violence on young offenders and until 1994 he worked as Probation Officer in Greater Manchester. His first full-length collection of poems, Zoom!, was published in 1989 by Bloodaxe Books and he published The Twilight Readings, an illustrated publication of his earlier residency at YSP, in 2007. In 2015 Armitage was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.