― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 03:32 (eighteen years ago) link
― lovebug starski, Wednesday, 16 June 2004 09:30 (eighteen years ago) link
― cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 10:45 (eighteen years ago) link
If I were called inTo construct a religionI should make use of water.
Going to churchWould entail a fordingTo dry, different clothes;
My liturgy would employImages of sousing,A furious devout drench,
And I should raise in the eastA glass of waterWhere any-angled lightWould congregate endlessly.
― Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 June 2004 09:51 (eighteen years ago) link
― anthony, Thursday, 17 June 2004 21:05 (eighteen years ago) link
― o. nate (onate), Thursday, 17 June 2004 21:38 (eighteen years ago) link
It's funny - the poem Archel posted was always one of the ones I half skipped in TWW, that first line. But reading it now, it's great, of course.
― Gregory Henry (Gregory Henry), Thursday, 17 June 2004 23:16 (eighteen years ago) link
― donald, Friday, 18 June 2004 15:52 (eighteen years ago) link
At the time of his death, Philip Larkin's reputation was unassailable: a poet both popular and critically lauded, there was hardly a literate man or woman in the country who could not, it seemed, quote at least one line from his small and perfectly formed oeuvre - even if it was only "They **** you up, your Mum and Dad". In the space of a few years that reputation had been shattered by two brick-sized tomes: Andrew Motion's warts-and-all biography, and Anthony Thwaite's edition of his selected letters, which revealed a side of Larkin's personality he had wisely been keeping to himself. (You suspect he might have either been a little more careful in his choice of literary executors, or in the instructions he left them: most writers know they can't guarantee hagiography and complete discretion, but only a fool or a man too much given to trust would have made such a hash of it.) So it was something of an irony that having commissioned the two books, Faber and Faber inadvertently found themselves performing a hatchet job on their most precious asset, after T.S. Eliot's share in "Cats". Larkin's critics were armed with what they needed, and took great delight in unveiling him as a misanthropic neo-nazi pervert - though this, of course, was an absurd caricature of the truth, and both books present a far more complex picture. Whatever, by the early nineties Larkin's critical stock was in freefall.
A lot of people, then, seemed to think it entirely justified to revise their opinion of the work in the light of these biographical revelations, as if his every better sincerity had been undermined by his worst; but the practice is no more than a kind of inverted sentimentalism. With Ted Hughes, probably the other most important English poet of the last 30 years, you can see the process working in reverse. It's interesting to speculate whether we would have tolerated a writer so shockingly uneven in his output if, instead of the tall, dark, craggy, brooding, sexually charismatic Heathcliff-lookalike with a biography most novelists would dismiss as hopelessly contrived, he had been some fat baldy five-foot bauchle from Worthing with chronic halitosis and a job at the Inland Revenue (or indeed, Philip Larkin himself). Many have conveniently forgotten how low Hughes's reputation had sunk in the Eighties, and how justly - let us recall "The Thistle and the Honey-Bee", on Andy and Fergie's wedding: "The helicopter snatched you up / the pilot, it was me". The award-hoovering Tales from Ovid and Birthday Letters were without doubt a return to form – but are nothing like the works of uniform brilliance that some have claimed. Hughes, to the end, was a master of overstatement; the words "world" "black" "universe" and "death" were always too quick to spring to his lips. It takes no longer, and no more imaginative expenditure, to type the words "sausage" or "trousers". Both Hughes and Larkin had real genius, but Hughes' error was to write as if knew it; Larkin's, to remain terminally uncertain of it.
After the wonderful "High Windows", Larkin wrote only squibs and codas. I suspect Larkin gave up poetry because it was the last thing in his life that involved him feeling anything at all; his other great enthusiasm, jazz, ended in numerous public declarations of the demise of the entire art form, and smacked of a man determined not to allow anyone else to take pleasure from the things in which he himself had ceased to. His absurdly parsimonious habits persisted to the end, when, dying of throat cancer, he subsisted on Complan and cheap red wine. "Couldn't you at least drink expensive red wine?" asked a friend in desperation; but Larkin's self-hatred was by then so ingrained, his small privations must've felt to him as our small comforts do to us. A man who knew so little inner peace should be forgiven anything.
The great Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa did as much as anyone to further the understanding of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Co-founder of the Samye Ling monastery in Eskdalemuir (now, funnily enough, involved in a very Trungpa-esque scandal) he went on to set up a number of meditation centres in North America; books such as "Cutting through Spiritual Materialism" remain classics of contemporary Buddhist teaching. Trungpa's spectacular and notorious decline was a farcical tale of alcoholism, car-crashes, epic womanising and an early booze- assisted death. The method he used to communicate his teaching - so- called "crazy wisdom" - frequently crossed the line from idiosyncrasy into insanity. But to suggest for one second that the teaching itself was undermined by his behaviour would be ignorant in the extreme: it existed independently of him. Others have gone on to carry his torch with far more grace. All his life shows, in the most dramatic way possible, is that humans are human, the West offers a whole lot more temptation than the East, and the precepts are pretty hard to keep. Trungpa, as a man, was weak and bad example. As a teacher he was, and remains, an overwhelming force for compassionate wisdom.
And so, odd as the comparison may seem, with Larkin. Larkin was a poet, essentially, of moral discourse; the fact that the little window we were given onto his life showed him as unfit to participate in it, let alone lead it, is frankly neither here nor there. Larkin - whoever he was – is dust. The poems, some of the saddest, most beautiful and humane of the last century, are still with us. And how many of our lives would have survived that kind of selective scrutiny? We must remember to read the poetry, not the poet.
- D. P.
― cozen (Cozen), Friday, 18 June 2004 16:06 (eighteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Saturday, 19 June 2004 00:51 (eighteen years ago) link
― DOnald, Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:22 (eighteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:28 (eighteen years ago) link
― jed_ (jed), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:51 (eighteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:58 (eighteen years ago) link
(d.p. = don paterson.)
― cozen (Cozen), Sunday, 20 June 2004 07:45 (eighteen years ago) link
― bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 15:03 (eighteen years ago) link
― donald, Sunday, 20 June 2004 15:32 (eighteen years ago) link
― cozen (Cozen), Sunday, 20 June 2004 16:31 (eighteen years ago) link
Radically non-dualistic religioso in embracing dubious dichotomies non-shockah!
― Rockist Scientist (rockistscientist), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:45 (eighteen years ago) link
― Rockist Scientist (rockistscientist), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:47 (eighteen years ago) link
― bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:35 (eighteen years ago) link
― bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:36 (eighteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Monday, 21 June 2004 04:04 (eighteen years ago) link
― Sam (chirombo), Monday, 21 June 2004 08:11 (eighteen years ago) link
We are here to mourn the death of our friend Philip Larkin. He was the most private of men, one who found the universe a bleak and hostile place and recognized very clearly the disagreeable realities of human life, above all the dreadful effects of time on all we have and are. The world of his fellow creatures was hardly less forbidding: privacy was to be jealously guarded. In the sense of complete physical solitude, he found it a daily necessity. He saw people as hopelessly cut off from each other, and revealingly misquoted Donne in declaring, Every man is an island. And yet it was impossible to meet him without being aware in the first few seconds of his impeccable attentive courtesy: grave, but at the same time sunlit, always ready to respond to a gleam of humor or warmth. He was surprised if anyone found him a gloomy person: I like to think of myself as quite funny, he told an interviewer, and he was more than funny about those in the literary and academic world whom he considered fraudulent, and he found no shortage of those; and to hear him sounding off about a politician or any other public figure who was not to his taste did the heart good. But there was no malice in it, no venom. If he regarded the world severely or astringently, it was a jovial astringency. He could be at his funniest when uttering those same painful truths about life as those he made so devastating in his poetry. And it was all from the heart: he never showed off, never laid claim to feeling what he didn't feel, and it was that honesty, more total in his case than in any other I've known, that gave his poetry such power. He meant every word of it; and so, though he may not have written many poems, he wrote none that were false or unnecessary. His honesty extended to himself; again, nobody was ever more totally or acutely aware of his limitations. He took life seriously, he took poetry seriously, but not himself -- nobody who said he looked like a bald salmon could do that. No solemnity about himself as a poet either; when he'd written a poem he felt pleased, as if he'd laid an egg. But we take seriously what he has left us. We are lucky enough to have known him; thousands who didn't, and more thousands in the future, will be able to share those poems with us. They offer comfort, and not cold comfort either. They are not dismal or pessimistic, but invigorating; they know that for all its shortcomings life must be got on with. And now we must get on with ours, a little better equipped to do so with the help of those fragments of poignancy and humor in everyday things, those moments of illumination and beauty we should never have seen or known but for Philip. Kingsley Amis December 1985
― lovebug starski, Monday, 21 June 2004 09:22 (eighteen years ago) link
― cºzen (Cozen), Saturday, 24 July 2004 20:13 (eighteen years ago) link
John Updike reviews Larkin in the new New Yorker
― DOnald, Monday, 26 July 2004 03:44 (eighteen years ago) link
i love philip larkin. surprised this thread isn't longer. i bought his collected poems recently after reading martin amis talking about him in the ft (article sadly no longer online)
i read it daily and i find myself staring at some of the couplets and thinking them through, it really washes over you, so devastating but the trivial details give his poems a sort of beauty.
love this one in particular, "the life with a hole in it".
When I throw back my head and howlPeople (women mostly) sayBut you've always done what you want,You always get your own way--A perfectly vile and foulInversion of all that's been.What the old ratbags meanIs I've never done what I don't.
So the shit in the shuttered chateauWho does his five hundred wordsThen parts out the rest of the dayBetween bathing and booze and birdsIs far off as ever, but soIs that spectacled schoolteaching sod(Six kids, and the wife in pod,And her parents coming to stay)...
Life is an immobile, locked,Three-handed struggle betweenYour wants, the world's for you, and (worse)The unbeatable slow machineThat brings what you'll get. Blocked,They strain round a hollow stasisOf havings-to, fear, faces.Days sift down it constantly. Years.
are there other poets i should read if i like larkin? i mean i know he's massively canonical but beyond knowing famous names etc i am a bit of a noob with poetry, i have a frank o'hara anthology and now this larkin book and that's it.
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 10:29 (eleven years ago) link
Louis MacNeice? Has that practical engagment with the unpoetic mundane that I think Larkin has
I do not want to be reflective any moreEnvying and despising unreflective thingsFidning pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting (Wolves)
But listen, up the road, something gulps, the church spireOpens its eight bells out, skulls' mouths which will not tireTo tell how there is no music or movement which securesEscape from the weekday time. Which deadens and endures. (Sunday Morning)
RS Thomas - has the unromanticising of the romantic pastoral that's in Larkin:
There was a sound of voices on the air,But where, where? It was only the glib stream talkingSoftly to itself. And once when he was walkingAlong a lane in spring he was deceivedBy a shrill whistle coming through the leaves:Wait a minute, wait a minute - four swift notes;He turned, and it was nothing, only a thrushIn the thorn bushes easing its throat.He swore at himself for paying heed,The poor hill farmer, so often againStopping, staring, listening, in vain,His ear betrayed by the heart's need.
― Fizzles the Chimp (GamalielRatsey), Sunday, 9 October 2011 10:56 (eleven years ago) link
surprised this thread isn't longer.
some idiot started another one is why
Philip Larkin - "What will survive of us is love" or "Books are a load of crap"?
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:39 (eleven years ago) link
ah shit maybe i should have used that one.
i love this one, even tho it's totally "society is in the gutter". it's more the beauty with which he delivers that view, and the quiet way it's done. plus in terms of literally the space and the earth there's a truth there.
I thought it would last my time -The sense that, beyond the town,There would always be fields and farms,Where the village louts could climbSuch trees as were not cut down;I knew there'd be false alarms
In the papers about old streetsAnd split level shopping, but someHave always been left so far;And when the old part retreatsAs the bleak high-risers comeWe can always escape in the car.
Things are tougher than we are, justAs earth will always respondHowever we mess it about;Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:The tides will be clean beyond.- But what do I feel now? Doubt?
Or age, simply? The crowdIs young in the M1 cafe;Their kids are screaming for more -More houses, more parking allowed,More caravan sites, more pay.On the Business Page, a score
Of spectacled grins approveSome takeover bid that entailsFive per cent profit (and tenPer cent more in the estuaries): moveYour works to the unspoilt dales(Grey area grants)! And when
You try to get near the seaIn summer . . . It seems, just now,To be happening so very fast;Despite all the land left freeFor the first time I feel somehowThat it isn't going to last,
That before I snuff it, the wholeBoiling will be bricked inExcept for the tourist parts -First slum of Europe: a roleIt won't be hard to win,With a cast of crooks and tarts.
And that will be England gone,The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,The guildhalls, the carved choirs.There'll be books; it will linger onIn galleries; but all that remainsFor us will be concrete and tyres.
Most things are never meant.This won't be, most likely; but greedsAnd garbage are too thick-strewnTo be swept up now, or inventExcuses that make them all needs.I just think it will happen, soon.
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:48 (eleven years ago) link
greedsAnd garbage are too thick-strewnTo be swept up now,
is a really beautiful line imo
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:50 (eleven years ago) link
are there other poets i should read if i like larkin?
MacNeice and Thomas are good shouts I think. Ted Hughes, despite the early critical blah about him being the opposite of Larkin, shares a lot of themes, especially early on, and since sometimes they're writing about the same landscape or the same history comparisons are interesting. Auden and Spender have got Larkin-ish voices sometimes, or rather Larkin probly has Auden and Spender-esque voices sometimes. Yeats was a big early influence on the dude, tho Yeats has a big sprawling ouevre to pick thru.
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:50 (eleven years ago) link
Larkin was totally "sociey is in the gutter" but in a sad way that's as much about his sense of himself as it is the wider world; i'm with him on it, tbh.
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:52 (eleven years ago) link
Seconding Ted Hughes. I suppose you already know Seamus Heaney?
Fell completely in love with Hughes' poetry last year. It's so minimal and evocative, pastoral even.
― Young Swell (Le Bateau Ivre), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:55 (eleven years ago) link
i love Hughes a lot, as much as Larkin i think, but Hughes' Collected Poems is a lot harder to carry around with you :(
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:58 (eleven years ago) link
Read Hardy too.
― lumber up, limbaugh down (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:59 (eleven years ago) link
i never liked heaney that much at school, but it is possible we did really boring heaney poems.
must try some of these recommendations, having an amazon binge...i like the fact larkin's poetry is quite modern and urban, think i get switched off by more i dunno, ethereal stuff.
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:59 (eleven years ago) link
most of the guys listed here have urban modes...Hughes has a mythological side to him that's still quite concrete and earthy but he does brilliant realist observation of rural life too
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:03 (eleven years ago) link
But yet there is beauty narcotic and deciduousIn the vast organism grown out of us:On all the traffic islands stand white globes like moons,The city’s haze is clouded amber that purrs and croons,And tilting by the noble curve bus after tall bus comesWith an osculation of yellow light, with a glory like chrysanthemums.
― MacNeice, "Eclogue For Christmas"
as teenagers we dropped acid and walked the deserted 4AM dublin suburbs full of wonders like these, traffic lights an art show, the occasional nitelink bombing down the coast road impossibly. he was from belfast i think.
It's no go the Yogi-Man, it's no go Blavatsky,All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi.― MacNeice, "Bagpipe Music"
this couplet is one of a few hundred things that i suspect are always on repeat somewhere down deep in the subconscious somewhere. something abt the rhythm, and the sentiment.
Ordinary people are peculiar too:Watch the vagrant in their eyesWho sneaks away while they are talking with youInto some black wood behind the skull,Following un-, or other, realities,Fishing for shadows in a pool.
But sometimes the vagrant comes the other wayOut of their eyes and into yoursHaving mistaken you perhaps for yesterdayOr for tomorrow night, a wood in whichHe may pick up among the pine-needles and burrsThe lost purse, the dropped stitch.
Vagrancy however is forbidden; ordinary menSoon come back to normal, look you straightIn the eyes as if to say 'It will not happen again',Put up a barrage of common sense to baulkIntimacy but by mistake interpolateSwear-words like roses in their talk.
― MacNeice, "Conversation"
― zvookster, Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:24 (eleven years ago) link
Early Simon Armitage has the urban thing, the clarity, plain man manner of address, not much of the gloom.
Douglas Dunn maybe? A bit too Larkin in places, but worth reading.
― you don't exist in the database (woof), Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:33 (eleven years ago) link
was just thinking about Dunn, the Larkin that likes human beings
― Dios mio! This kid is FUN to hit! (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:34 (eleven years ago) link
all this looking great...
i also have a totally unrelated question...a friend of mine sent me a poem about a year ago that was sort of a love poem where the author said something like people should have to pay for the words they spoke, or be silent, this sort of whimisical but romantic poem. ring any bells? i can't find it at all.
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 13:55 (eleven years ago) link
so i have been reading macneice a lot...some really amazing stuff. the autumn journal excerpts in the selected poems are incredible. anyone read the whole thing? the section iv about the woman is one of the most amazing expressions of love i've ever read.
i also love this one, Woods.
"My father who found the English landscape tameHad hardly in his life walked in a wood,Too old when first he met one; Malory’s knights,Keats’s nymphs or the Midsummer Night’s DreamCould never arras the room, where he spelled out True and GoodWith their interleaving of half-truths and not-quites.
While for me from the age of ten the socketed wooden gateInto a Dorset planting, into a darkBut gentle ambush, was an alluring eye;Within was a kingdom free from time and sky,Caterpillar webs on the forehead, danger under the feet,And the mind adrift in a floating and rustling ark
Packed with birds and ghosts, two of every race,Trills of love from the picture-book—-Oh might I never landBut here, grown six foot tall, find me also a loveAlso out of the picture-book; whose handWould be soft as the webs of the wood and on her faceThe wood-pigeon’s voice would shaft a chrism from above.
So in a grassy ride a rain-filled hoof-mark coinedBy a finger of sun from the mint of Long AgoWas the last of Lancelot’s glitter. Make-believe dies hard;That the rider passed here lately and is a man we knowIs still untrue, the gate to Legend remains unbarred,The grown-up hates to divorce what the child joined.
Thus from a city when my father would frameEscape, he thought, as I do, of bog or rockBut I have also this other, this English, choiceInto what yet is foreign; whatever its nameEach wood is the mystery and the recurring shockOf its dark coolness is a foreign voice.
Yet in using the word tame my father was maybe right,These woods are not the Forest; each is mooredTo a village somewhere near. If not of to-dayThey are not like the wilds of Mayo, they are assuredOf their place by men; reprieved from the neolithic nightBy gamekeepers or by Herrick’s girls at play.
And always we walk out again. The patchOf sky at the end of the path grows and disclosesAn ordered open air long ruled by dyke and fence,With geese whose form and gait proclaim their consequence,Pargetted outposts, windows browed with thatch,And cow pats - and inconsequent wild roses.”
― When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Saturday, 22 October 2011 10:28 (eleven years ago) link
don't suppose anyone has a copy or recording of "love and death in hull", the documentary from a few years back? can't find it online anywhere...
― I'm going to allow this! (LocalGarda), Saturday, 10 March 2012 09:51 (ten years ago) link
i had it on VHS but i think it's gone. i'll ask mrs V when i see her next.
amazingly i was gonna open this thread up myself this morning, to quote one of his cruder opening gambits.
― Kony Montana: "Say hello to my invisible friend" (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 10 March 2012 09:53 (ten years ago) link
practically dived into larkin book after coming back from a funeral in Ireland a week or two ago. gonna pick up douglas dunn's "elegies" today, not sure why I am massively keen on reading a book about someone's grieving for their dead young wife but that's one for the counselling session.
― I'm going to allow this! (LocalGarda), Saturday, 10 March 2012 09:57 (ten years ago) link
Love again: wanking at ten past three(Surely he's taken her home by now?),The bedroom hot as a bakery,The drink gone dead, without showing howTo meet tomorrow, and afterwards,And the usual pain, like dysentery.
― Kony Montana: "Say hello to my invisible friend" (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 10 March 2012 09:57 (ten years ago) link
that only feels tangentially apt but today it's bouncing round my head
― Kony Montana: "Say hello to my invisible friend" (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 10 March 2012 09:58 (ten years ago) link
Love Again comes back a good bit, unbidden, even when not relevant. More in a "Words at once true and kind,/Or not untrue and not unkind." space at the mo.
going to drop this here, never seen it, mean to watch later.
― woof, Saturday, 10 March 2012 17:34 (ten years ago) link
"A man who knew so little inner peace should be forgiven anything" -- agree or disagree?
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:22 (nine years ago) link
(Asking as a general critical principle, not just w/r/t Larkin. Strikes me as poete maudite received-wisdom bollocks, but I am in the midst of a v.charged personal struggle to emerge from romantic equation of suffering with artistic insight, so maybe projecting
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:47 (nine years ago) link
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:48 (nine years ago) link
I was briefly tempted by that Jackson book - it's a great topic - but I don't really trust him, feel like everything I've read by him has been a bit underpowered intellectually - chimes with what your saying, I suspect.
― woof, Thursday, 9 May 2013 13:19 (nine years ago) link
agree or disagree?
The word "anything" should only be admitted in that statement if it carries a sense so attenuated as to render it useless.
― Aimless, Thursday, 9 May 2013 18:13 (nine years ago) link
okay well obviously it's hyperbolic, but I'm more curious about the idea that an author's 'private' missteps (odious political views, racism, misogyny, whatever) can be redeemed(? canceled out??) by the author's equally private "self-hatred" and suffering. something about this moral calculus feels off to me, but I can't put my finger on it.
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 19:49 (nine years ago) link
... basically it seems to boil down to "Larkin may have been a shitty person, but he was aware of it, and managed to balance being a shitty person with making non-shitty art; therefore, he can be excused for not using his self-knowledge to become a less shitty person"
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 19:54 (nine years ago) link
(NB I know next-to-nothing about Philip Larkin outside of what's in this thread. I enjoy most poems of his that I've read, and find nothing objectionable in them.)
― Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 19:56 (nine years ago) link
Good essay by James Fenton:http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/fenton_su13.html
It is very strange that a poet whose key work lies in three rather short volumes should have caused such difficulties for his editors and such controversy among his readers. But the readers pay him the tribute of a sort of possessiveness and concern: they want their poet to look his best. And it’s hard for a poet to look good in his Collected Poems, if by “collected” we mean anything like “complete.” Most poets’ collected works will include things that would make the author cringe. Presented in untidied form, such gatherings remind me of nothing so much as those yard sales characteristic of recession America, in which families set out on their front lawns the contents of their closets and dens—the Frisbees, the old scooters, the clothes neither wanted nor needed, the dreadful joke presents—all in the hope of raising a little cash.
― lols lane (Eazy), Wednesday, 19 June 2013 22:39 (nine years ago) link
Swerving east, from rich industrial shadowsAnd traffic all night north; swerving through fieldsToo thin and thistled to be called meadows,And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shieldsWorkmen at dawn; swerving to solitudeOf skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,And the widening river's slow presence,The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,
Gathers to the surprise of a large town:Here domes and statues, spires and cranes clusterBeside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,And residents from raw estates, brought downThe dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires--Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers--
A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwellingWhere only salesmen and relations comeWithin a terminate and fishy-smellingPastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edgesFast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,Isolate villages, where removed lives
Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,Luminously-peopled air ascends;And past the poppies bluish neutral distanceEnds the land suddenly beyond a beachOf shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.
― rock nobster (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:47 (nine years ago) link
the slave museum
― rock nobster (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:48 (nine years ago) link
turns out I'm a fan
― SEEMS TO ME (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 30 August 2014 06:22 (eight years ago) link
What are days for?Days are where we live.They come, they wake usTime and time over.They are to be happy in:Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that questionBrings the priest and the doctorIn their long coatsRunning over the fields.
― difficult listening hour, Saturday, 30 August 2014 09:27 (eight years ago) link
Once I am sure there’s nothing going onI step inside, letting the door thus shut.Another church: matting, seats, and stone,And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cutFor Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff 5Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take offMy cycle-clips in awkward reverence.
Move forward, run my hand around the font. 10From where I stand, the roof looks almost new –Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.Mounting the lectern, I peruse a fewHectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant. 15The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the doorI sign the book, done an Irish sixpence,Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.
Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,And always end much at a loss like this, 20Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,When churches will fall completely out of useWhat we shall turn them into, if we shall keepA few cathedrals chronically on show,Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases, 25And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?
Or, after dark, will dubious women comeTo make their children touch a particular stone;Pick simples for a cancer; or on some 30Advised night see walking a dead one?Power of some sort will go onIn games, in riddles, seemingly at random;But superstition, like belief, must die,And what remains when disbelief has gone? 35Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,
A shape less recognisable each week,A purpose more obscure. I wonder whoWill be the last, the very last, to seekThis place for what it was; one of the crew 40That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiffOf gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?Or will he by my representative, 45
Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly siltDispersed, yet tending to this cross of groundThrough suburb scrub because it held unspiltSo long and equably what since is foundOnly in separation – marriage, and birth, 50And death, and thoughts of these – for which was builtThis special shell? For, though I’ve no ideaWhat this accoutered frowsty barn is worth,It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is, 55In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,Are recognized, and robed as destinies.And that much never can be obsolete,Since someone will forever be surprisingA hunger in himself to be more serious, 60And gravitating with it to this ground,Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,If only that so many dead lie round.
― treeship., Tuesday, 4 May 2021 11:43 (one year ago) link
I start rereading THE LESS DECEIVED (1955).
My feeling thus far is:
a) slight over-familiarity of the very familiar ones, which can then - being what they are, poems that say things and convey thoughts or arguments - feel glib. 'Reasons for Attendance' and '... Photograph Album' here. And I find myself looking at lines and wondering what they really mean, eg: why would photographs be 'smaller and clearer as the years go by'? Photographs do not, in fact, do that. So why are they figuratively doing that?
b) with the less familiar ones, a very different feeling - of surprise, uncertainty, mystery. 'Wedding-Wind' is, I suppose, a pastiche, partly Yeatsian (but perhaps supposed to be English not Irish) but still contains some of that mystery, in a line like: 'Can it be borne, this bodying-forth by wind / Of joy my actions turn on, like a thread / Carrying beads? Shall I be let to sleep / Now this perpetual morning shares my bed?' 'Dry-Point' is even more mysterious to me: I literally don't know what it's about. (And Larkin is supposed to be all too obvious and conversational.) 'Coming', serious about hope, is matched by 'Going', serious about death.
More generally the obsession with death is already somewhat too heavy for me (he was only 33), and doesn't give the poems weight and power in the same way that his interest in the actual difficult sensations of life does.
― the pinefox, Monday, 17 October 2022 17:34 (three months ago) link
I finish rereading THE LESS DECEIVED.
I think I can see why the book is, certainly was, significant; why Larkin earned his reputation; though I have a feeling that THE WHITSUN WEDDINGS is even better (and a bit longer). I think the poems can hold a certain brittleness, partly because they are almost always saying something, making a case. Larkin seems to have written himself into that mode - in which to write a poem was to make a statement or assess an argument - and not very often moved out of it. I suppose it means that in reading the poem you have to assess the argument (which is not really the same as assessing a poem), and you might feel that he is rigging up a case just for the sake of it, to make a poem. To read him consecutively taking so many positions (in poetic form) can be wearying, or makes me feel that he himself must be wearied by it.
A thing that many many other poets, especially later, have done - just recording an impression, without offering a strong view on it - does not so much seem to have occurred to Larkin as a viable mode.
Perhaps I am seeking to say that the poems are rhetorical, and that rhetoric can be suspect, especially when applied so intensively (that is, in a sequence of highly charged pieces of rhetoric called poems, read in quick succession).
To return to my feelings above: I still feel that glibness hovers around some of those that feel more familiar. The pay-off of something like 'I Remember, I Remember' is another example. Yet it is also true that some of the poems are obscure to me, more than one might expect.
My age fallen away like white swaddlingFloats in the middle distance, becomesAn inhabited cloud. I bend closer, discernA lighted tenement scuttling with voices.O you tall game I tired myself with joining!Now I wade through you like knee-level weeds, And they attend me, dear translucent bergs:Silence and space. By now so much has flownFrom the nest here of my head that I needs must turnTo know what prints I leave, whether of feet,Or spoor of pads, or a bird’s adept splay.
I am not sure how much I understand that. 'O you tall game I tired myself with joining!' - Larkin must have known how perverse that line was, and been happy with it.
Larkin can enjoy delving into idiom, as in the list of trades in 'Toads', or this terrifically evocative, deliberately naive and vague stanza:
Lots of folk live up lanesWith fires in a bucket,Eat windfalls and tinned sardines.They seem to like it.
Fires in a bucket!
Yet even that poem ends somewhat enigmatically, for me:
I don't say, one bodies the otherOne's spiritual truth;But I do say it's hard to lose either,When you have both.
What are the two things? I think one is the 'toad-like' quality in the speaker, and the other is work itself. The latter embodies the former. But what really is the former? Not very clear.
'Deceptions', whence largely comes the title, is notable, for one thing because Margaret Thatcher misquoted it interestingly when Larkin met her in the early 1980s; for another because it draws on a prior non-literary source; for another because it therefore seems to be thoroughly sympathetic to a (violated) woman. But then I don't really understand the line 'where / Desire takes charge, readings will grow erratic', and I wonder if that part got Larkin back into the trouble the poem should have got him out of. I note also that the tone of the poem anticipates the Heaney of something like 'Punishment' in NORTH.
'Skin' is another example of a certain glibness: it's all too understandable. Whereas 'Absences' is strange, not that understandable. I genuinely don't necessarily know what it means:
Rain patters on a sea that tilts and sighs.Fast-running floors, collapsing into hollows,Tower suddenly, spray-haired. Contrariwise,A wave drops like a wall: another follows,Wilting and scrambling, tirelessly at playWhere there are no ships and no shallows. Above the sea, the yet more shoreless day,Riddled by wind, trails lit-up galleries:They shift to giant ribbing, sift away. Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!
It seems to me that these are the book's poles: a degree of communicativeness that can work so well that the poem is relatively quickly exhausted, and a degree of mystery that keeps the poems from that fate; with a middle ground.
That reminds me that to me the most powerful and painful poem in the book is 'No Road'.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 10:14 (three months ago) link
i am rarely much of a champ when it comes to interpeting poetry but isn't "'O you tall game I tired myself with joining!" a memory of himself when small trying to keep up with the big children (where the line before and the line after it is him as a grown-up, first peering down at and then striding through the tinies)
― mark s, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 10:44 (three months ago) link
Reluctant as I am to link to the Spectator, I am surprised we have come so far in the Larkin thread without discussing this article
― Piedie Gimbel, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 11:40 (three months ago) link
I am inclined to agree with Mark S's statement and find it perceptive.
I still think that the line retains a deliberate oddity, and still think the rest of the poem quite obscure.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 11:55 (three months ago) link
mark s's read also seems right to me. enjoying this thread, Larkin's sort of measured gravity can thrill
― J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:11 (three months ago) link
in conclusion: in this two-stanza poem ('age') PL likens himself to sesame street's BIG BIRD
it opens with him surrounded by the grown up clouds of metaphysics (time! space!) but at its close he must pay attention to his own splayed feetprints on the far distant ground to make sense of himself
10/10 no notes, comments are closed
― mark s, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:17 (three months ago) link
we shd start a thread where we interpret poems together, i think it wd be instructive (*sharpens trolling pencil*)
― mark s, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:19 (three months ago) link
Larkin seems to have written himself into that mode - in which to write a poem was to make a statement or assess an argument - and not very often moved out of it. I
This is the thing with Wallace Stevens too.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:30 (three months ago) link
So long as we do it I. A. Richards style
― Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:37 (three months ago) link
Mark: we did that, about 18 years ago, when poster Cozen was a notable ILB poster. Among other things (?) we had a rewarding long discussion of a particular poem that I liked by Sean O'Brien.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:49 (three months ago) link
I don't especially see the comparison of Larkin to Stevens, as Larkin's 'ideas' or 'arguments' are usually quite straightforward or at least comprehensible - well, they are often this, though I admit that above I said that sometimes they were not - whereas I don't find those qualities in Stevens. To the point where I am not really sure that Stevens is making a case at all.
I have been reading very early Derek Walcott and he actually reminded me of Stevens, more than anyone.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:52 (three months ago) link
Stevens can be abstruse but is often straightforward:
Light the first light of evening, as in a roomIn which we rest and, for small reason, thinkThe world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous. It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawlWrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth, A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole, A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind.We say God and the imagination are one... How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind, We make a dwelling in the evening air, In which being there together is enough.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:53 (three months ago) link
Ariel was glad he had written his poems.They were of a remembered timeOr of something seen that he liked. Other makings of the sunWere waste and welterAnd the ripe shrub writhed. His self and the sun were oneAnd his poems, although makings of his self,Were no less makings of the sun. It was not important that they survive.What mattered was that they should bearSome lineament or character, Some affluence, if only half-perceived,In the poverty of their words,Of the planet of which they were part.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 13:59 (three months ago) link
Those may be good poems, but I don't understand what ideas they are advancing - in the particular way that Larkin (for good or ill) does.
I emphasise that I don't think poems 'should' put forward clear ideas; I just observe that Larkin sometimes does.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:12 (three months ago) link
"We say God and the imagination are one" and "His self and the sun were one/And his poems, although makings of his self,/Were no less makings of the sun" are as straightforward as you can get!
I'll stop b/c we disagree.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:13 (three months ago) link
take it to the poetry parsing thread! a thread in which ilx interprets poems, sometimes line by line, and disagrees a lot (probably)
― mark s, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:19 (three months ago) link
For me, Larkin is particular and personal and local: work is a toad squatting on my life. Parents are shit. Hull is other people. I can't get laid even in a sexy time. He has a grasp of details. He touches universal themes from time to time, but his feet were on the ground.
(I love Larkin BTW)
Stevens is an ontological writer concerned with the universe and with Berkelian perception: masts against a seascape create an order (if a perceiving being contemplates them). A jar shapes a landscape and ultimately a universe (if a perceiving being contemplates it). A frozen dessert, while you contemplate it, is an empire. A stupid bird becomes a whole fucking universe, while you are contemplating it. Any observed detail, to Stevens, can be a springboard into the universal. He touches reality from time to time, but his head was in the clouds.
(I love Stevens BTW)
Can't imagine a world without both
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:20 (three months ago) link
being pretty familiar with what's left of much of the region Larkin writes about i see recognisable details dropped in even when the poem itself is predominantly making the kind of arguments Pinefox describes
― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:30 (three months ago) link
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 14:36 (three months ago) link
I do wonder about Larkin's endings though, and how these lift him free of the accusation of groundedness (I know it's not an accusation really, but I think Larkin has become 'Larkinised' - kind of a subject of his own poem, frozen in time and space like the lovers in An Arundel Tomb - in a way Stevens hasn't and will never be).
I think 'The Whitsun Weddings' is as good an example as any:
We slowed again,And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelledA sense of falling, like an arrow-shower Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
It's pointedly ambiguous, certainly, psychedelic even, and perhaps a deliberate attempt at unmooring from a perceived anchoring in the local and the particular. 'High Windows' makes the same move.
Perhaps these are the exception that prove the rule.
― Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 16:40 (three months ago) link
Stevens is less of a presence in his poetry; even his grand "we"s are the pronouns of a medium.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 16:43 (three months ago) link
I agree, your Lordship. I get the feeling that Wallace Stevens (the person) would have regarded "Wallace Stevens" (the poet) as a character, as a mouthpiece for a particular epistemological viewpoint that was more or less sincerely held by Wallace Stevens (the person).
To Chinasky's point I don't think Phillip Larkin (the person) would have minded being conflated with "Phillip Larkin" (the poet). And I don't think of ~relative~ groundedness as being a bad thing. Being more "down to earth" than an airy spirit like Stevens is not exactly a criticism.
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 17:07 (three months ago) link
I may have missed something because am not really clear on why this comparison is being made - like, why are we comparing Larkin to Stevens instead of to Dylan Thomas or Sylvia Plath or Randall Jarrell or Audre Lorde or for that matter Adrienne Rich?
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 17:12 (three months ago) link
Because ILB poster Alfred, Lord S., above, stated that Stevens was like Larkin in writing poems that made statements and arguments.
No other reason.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 17:39 (three months ago) link
Chinaski: I don't think Larkin's 'rise to transcendence' moments are the exception at all -- they're a standard feature of his work. I think that most full descriptions of what Larkin does would include this as a major weapon in his armoury, or option in his repertoire, or temptation to which he yields. I think he does it very well, but also that it might risk being routinised by its frequency.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 17:42 (three months ago) link
Sure, isn't High Windows pretty much a textbook study in contrasts? Awkward cycle clips, religion, awkward cycle clips, transcendence, seriousness, death.
No one would remember it if it were just about bicycling and pants
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 18:02 (three months ago) link
That's a different poem. 'Church Going'.
'High Windows' is from about 20 years later.
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 18:33 (three months ago) link
Oh duh, sorry, serves me right for posting from work and away from the shelf
I will slink away into ignominy now
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 18:37 (three months ago) link
High Windows is about kids fucking
― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 18:38 (three months ago) link
It is also name-checked by Jonatha Brooke on the uber-literary album by the Story, The Angel in the House, 1994ish
― the floor is guava (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 October 2022 18:46 (three months ago) link
I finished THE NORTH SHIP, Larkin's 1945 collection. It would be fair to say: if you think you know Larkin (as most people do), but haven't read these poems (as some people haven't), then there is an aspect of Larkin you don't know.
― the pinefox, Friday, 21 October 2022 09:27 (three months ago) link
A couple of years ago I read the Collected Poems of Larkin. Its a much more approachable volume than the Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, which I also have. For one thing the poems tend to be short, and the obscure moments generally surrounded by relatable anecdotes from daily life. Also the generally dour and wistful mood carries you through - even if you don't understand everything you feel like you understand the feeling.
― o. nate, Thursday, 10 November 2022 20:17 (two months ago) link
since this thread was bumped recently i got a copy (collected poems) and have been enjoying it immensely.
This town has docks where channel boats come sidling;Tame water lanes, tall sheds, the traveller sees(His bag of samples knocking at his knees),And hears, still under slackened engines gliding,His advent blurted to the morning shore.
And we, barely recalled from sleep there, senseArrivals lowing in a doleful distance –Horny dilemmas at the gate once more.Come and choose wrong, they cry, come and choose wrong;And so we rise. At night again they sound,
Calling the traveller now, the outward bound:O not for long, they cry, I not for long –And we are nudged from comfort, never knowingHow safely we may disregard their blowing,Or if, this night, happiness too is going.
― Karl Malone, Thursday, 10 November 2022 20:56 (two months ago) link
The first stanza's last line.
― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 November 2022 21:07 (two months ago) link
"Horny dilemmas" as a bashful allusion to sexual frustration seems typical.
― o. nate, Thursday, 10 November 2022 21:42 (two months ago) link