Philip Larkin (Forerunners)

Tim Miller, at Underfoot, has posted a selection of Philip Larkin’s poetry, which i chose for Tim to post. In addition, there are a few words on how i came to Larkin. So, if you want a brief introduction to one of the finest voices in the history of English poetry, now’s your chance.


Underfoot Poetry

Thanks to Daniel Paul Marshall for selecting the nine poems below from Philip Larkin, as well as for the following comments. Be sure to check out his blog for his own poetry, essays and photography, as well as another piece on Larkin.

Larkin was a poet I knew more about than I had read. In university I’d read quite a number of essays on him, thanks to my access to JSTOR and flicked through the The Whitsun Weddings in the library. But I was more interested in him as a character. I’d seen Love & Death in Hull, an early documentary, which had impressed me & I highly recommend. His dower, austere gloom, a rain cloud following him about wherever he traipsed, his laconic, grey speech – his whole demeanour like a leaky tap. 

It wasn’t until one of my funerary visits back to England a couple of years…

View original post 2,504 more words

7 thoughts on “Philip Larkin (Forerunners)

  1. friggin Larkin man, he’s slowly becoming an invoke spirit for me. The Paris Review no longer has their interviews up free of charge, but thankfully I printed out his ages ago, & here he is talking about sharing drafts of poems with friends, for comment. Maybe he’d feel different if he had a blog:

    I shouldn’t normally show what I’d written to anyone: what would be the point? You remember Tennyson reading an unpublished poem to Jowett; when he had finished, Jowett said, “I shouldn’t publish that if I were you, Tennyson.” Tennyson replied, “If it comes to that, Master, the sherry you gave us at lunch was downright filthy.” That’s about all that can happen. But when we were young, Kingsley Amis and I used to exchange unpublished poems, largely because we never thought they could be published, I suppose. He encouraged me, I encouraged him. Encouragement is very necessary to a young writer. But it’s hard to find anyone worth encouraging: there aren’t many Kingsleys about.

    1. He is such a drama queen at times: from one anecdote in the annals of lit history, he decides it’s a fruitless endeavour to show others his poems. If he had, he may have written them a bit faster. i think it took a couple of years to finish the Whitsun Weddings, just the poem, not the whole book, which nearly took a decade.
      For all his greatness, he was a bit of a dick sometimes, on my count. He didn’t read much, which he admits somewhere, so he would never know if another Kingsley were about. They were a bit of a snobbish bunch that Oxford lot, i wouldn’t share my chips with ’em (french fries to you, haha.)
      i have never been greatly impressed by Tennyson, a poor man’s Wordsworth & nowhere near in league with his contemporary Browning, who was the true genius of the Victorian age. Browning wrote the first great Modernist poem, the Sordello, which it is impenetrable. Even Pound scratched his head.

      1. You have to imagine too, there’s a lot of mugging or acting with those interviews. I was surprised to hear you say anything good about Charles Olson I remember, because the interview with him I read was incomprehensible & pompous. I know, an interview has nothing to do with the work, I’m learning. ….I’ve the same worries about Eliot as you do Larkin, I’d love to have met him but I’m sure the things I admire about him would have made him a standoffish fellow, I may not have liked him either.

      2. i think we’d be pretty disappointed with most of the personalities our favorite poets actually embodied daily. Apart from Blake, i think. i am pretty certain, Blake would have been very amiable & comfortable to be around. Blake would be interested in modernity.
        As for Olson, i never got into his work much originally, only in recent years has he began to interest me, considering i discovered him nearly a decade ago. His readings & some of his ideas are interesting me & i’d like to know more about him. He was a phenomenal reader. The documentary Polis is This was a good watch.

  2. As I said elsewhere and elsewhen, I can’t stand Larkin. Whenever his name comes up, ‘This Be The Verse’ comes into my head like an Archies bubblegum earworm, and its stuck there all day. I always wanted to seize him warmly by the throat, when he comes out with…

    “They fuck you up, your mum and dad…”

    and say in reply…

    “No. They fucked YOU up, YOUR mum and dad! Leave the rest of us out of this bloody self-pitying metonymy!”

    I think it was Gil Scott Heron who said something to the effect that no good poetry had come out of the UK for forty years. In my hatred, I put that entirely down to Larkin! I will never forgive Larkin’s shade for saying this at the death of John Coltrane: “I regret Coltrane’s death, as I regret the death of any man, but I can’t conceal the fact that it leaves in jazz a vast, a blessed silence.”

    Okay, I’ve had my Jonathan Pie moment, I’ve got all the bile out of my throat. I know that – love him or loathe him – to anyone with an interest in poetry in the English language (and that means me) it is impossible to ignore Larkin. Like I said over at Tim’s blog, I have no time for Larkin and a lot of time for DPM, and I would like to thank you for the selection. I don’t rate them, but they were interesting. I accept and even relish the chance to read them this morning – that’s more Larkin than I have read at a single sitting for a long time.

    [By the way, JSTOR’s a decent research tool, but don’t forget there’s several years’ lag in what they present.]

    1. When some people say they don’t like certain poets, i’ll sometimes admonish them & question the quality of their judgement, but in Larkin’s case, i completely understand the aversion. He isn’t by any means up there with my favorites, & i don’t think he wrote a collection that is solid all the way through. However, the strong poems, for me, are exceptionally strong & make up in some measure for the rest.
      What he say of Coltrane is nothing short of idiotic, particular when i can imagine Larkin preferring Ted Heath, which is just daft— this is conjecture by the way.
      i agree with Gil Scott to a point. i think the UK has done a poor job of producing much of value for a good while, nothing people aboard will recognize. Though i’d put Symmons Roberts in the limelight as an example of what English poetry is still able to accomplish, along with Armitage & Hofmann, who i am partial to.
      i am also thankful for your kind words, encouragement & support that you’d rather read me over Larkin is welcomed.
      & thanks for buying a copy of the journal, i get no money for it, but i know Barton has 4 kids & i would like to see Isacoustic flourish. as Barton is a fine poet & his choice for the journal is very good. He’s a good man from what i’ve gathered from him so far.

a penny for your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s