Sigggggh, I love Philip Larkin...

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... how bout you?

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 03:32 (seventeen years ago) link

Yes indeed. Poems, The Letters, even the jazz criticism (though I love all the "angry" avant-garde stuff he hates, his stance is logical and articulate). But I've avoided the Motion biography.

lovebug starski, Wednesday, 16 June 2004 09:30 (seventeen years ago) link

why do you love him, ann?

cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 10:45 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't think he is terribly easy to love. But I do love this poem:


If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 June 2004 09:51 (seventeen years ago) link

i love larkin as well.

anthony, Thursday, 17 June 2004 21:05 (seventeen years ago) link

I want to buy a Larkin collection. His poems strike me as witty, informal, accessible, and pungent.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 17 June 2004 21:38 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh, he's it, I think. It.

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 (seventeen years ago) link

I love him too, but many don't of course, after his Letters came out. My mother-in-law, for example, loved pretty much the entire Collected poems I loaned her, until the review in the latest Nation came out, where she read letter excerpts, found out he was a fascist, etc. (Pretty "funny" how he was rooting for the Krauts...) Lots of reasons not to love him, the pathetic person, but so many more reasons to love his work. But is anyone else troubled by his dirty laundry list of small-minded letter excerpts enough to stop loving poems like Churchgoing and The Whitson Weddings?

donald, Friday, 18 June 2004 15:52 (seventeen years ago) link

Life and Work

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 (seventeen years ago) link

Yerp. Whuddee said.

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Saturday, 19 June 2004 00:51 (seventeen years ago) link

That's a terrific piece. Who is D.P.? I'd give it to my MIL but I don't think she'd get it. And I don't know about the comparision with Trungpa (what a lousy poet, he) but what do I know about Buddhism. Still, as an argument for art over biography it can't be beat.

DOnald, Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:22 (seventeen years ago) link

If you're trying to write, it's sort of edifying and also really sad, depending on your mood, to think that even if you should succeed, the YOU that you were really won't mean anything, it's just the tree that the vines grow round... not that I'd want to be a nasty prickletree. Do cherry trees get vines, I wonder?

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:28 (seventeen years ago) link

In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures.

jed_ (jed), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:51 (seventeen years ago) link

Maybe if you're a cherry tree you have to grow a pricklebush to woo the vines?

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Sunday, 20 June 2004 01:58 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm a horrible person so I find that thought comforting rather than sad, ann.

(d.p. = don paterson.)

cozen (Cozen), Sunday, 20 June 2004 07:45 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't know if trashing Ted Hughes for the sake of boosting Larkin is all that noble of an endeavor. "We must remember to read the poetry, not the poet." Great but does this piece do that? Maybe that was just an excerpt?

bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 15:03 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't mind the comparision with Hughes, who I agree was wonderful occasionally but pretty uneven. I remember that quote from Kingsley Amis at Larkin's funeral: something to the effect of, Larkin didn't write many poems, but he never wrote an unneccesary poem. Also, apropos of Hughes, someone asked Larkin if he ever thought about becoming Poet Laureate. "Yes, I dream about it... and wake up screaming."

donald, Sunday, 20 June 2004 15:32 (seventeen years ago) link

that is the full article, I believe. I think it does read the poetries not the poets, you don't bnw? I never read paterson as trashing hughes to 'boost' larkin, I never saw it that way, though maybe I'm blinded because larkin I love and hughes I can take or leave, my mileage varies.

cozen (Cozen), Sunday, 20 June 2004 16:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Trungpa, as a man, was weak and bad example. As a teacher he was, and remains, an overwhelming force for compassionate wisdom.

Radically non-dualistic religioso in embracing dubious dichotomies non-shockah!

Rockist Scientist (rockistscientist), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:45 (seventeen years ago) link

(Except I don't know if DP is a Buddhist or what or not.)

Rockist Scientist (rockistscientist), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:47 (seventeen years ago) link

It does talk some about Larkin's work.... I guess I just found "he's not Ted Hughes" to be a strange (and a bit mean spirited) justification as to why someone would love Larkin. But then I am never comfortable when people start talking about poet's personalities. I guess I am a bit of a formalist.

bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:35 (seventeen years ago) link

(I realize that's basically what the piece said, just it did it in a sort of "don't think about pink elephants" way.)

bnw (bnw), Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:36 (seventeen years ago) link

Yay formalists! Sometimes I wonder if the renewed (cough) hipness of genre fiction isn't the beginning a grand return to formalism... "and not a moment too soon," cries the Greek chorus...

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Monday, 21 June 2004 04:04 (seventeen years ago) link

Larkin reading "Aubade"

Sam (chirombo), Monday, 21 June 2004 08:11 (seventeen years ago) link

Funeral Address for Philip Larkin

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 (seventeen years ago) link

one month passes...

cºzen (Cozen), Saturday, 24 July 2004 20:13 (seventeen years ago) link

"I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife." (Larkin-- of course)

John Updike reviews Larkin in the new New Yorker

DOnald, Monday, 26 July 2004 03:44 (seventeen years ago) link

seven years pass...

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 howl
People (women mostly) say
But you've always done what you want,
You always get your own way
--A perfectly vile and foul
Inversion of all that's been.
What the old ratbags mean
Is I've never done what I don't.

So the shit in the shuttered chateau
Who does his five hundred words
Then parts out the rest of the day
Between bathing and booze and birds
Is far off as ever, but so
Is 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 between
Your wants, the world's for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings what you'll get. Blocked,
They strain round a hollow stasis
Of 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 (ten 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 more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Fidning pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting

But listen, up the road, something gulps, the church spire
Opens its eight bells out, skulls' mouths which will not tire
To tell how there is no music or movement which secures
Escape 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 talking
Softly to itself. And once when he was walking
Along a lane in spring he was deceived
By a shrill whistle coming through the leaves:
Wait a minute, wait a minute - four swift notes;
He turned, and it was nothing, only a thrush
In the thorn bushes easing its throat.
He swore at himself for paying heed,
The poor hill farmer, so often again
Stopping, staring, listening, in vain,
His ear betrayed by the heart's need.

Fizzles the Chimp (GamalielRatsey), Sunday, 9 October 2011 10:56 (ten 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 (ten 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 climb
Such trees as were not cut down;
I knew there'd be false alarms

In the papers about old streets
And split level shopping, but some
Have always been left so far;
And when the old part retreats
As the bleak high-risers come
We can always escape in the car.

Things are tougher than we are, just
As earth will always respond
However 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 crowd
Is 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 approve
Some takeover bid that entails
Five per cent profit (and ten
Per cent more in the estuaries): move
Your works to the unspoilt dales
(Grey area grants)! And when

You try to get near the sea
In summer . . .
It seems, just now,
To be happening so very fast;
Despite all the land left free
For the first time I feel somehow
That it isn't going to last,

That before I snuff it, the whole
Boiling will be bricked in
Except for the tourist parts -
First slum of Europe: a role
It 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 on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.

Most things are never meant.
This won't be, most likely; but greeds
And garbage are too thick-strewn
To be swept up now, or invent
Excuses 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 (ten years ago) link

And garbage are too thick-strewn
To be swept up now,

is a really beautiful line imo

When a German communicates, you listen (LocalGarda), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:50 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten years ago) link

Read Hardy too.

lumber up, limbaugh down (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 9 October 2011 11:59 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten years ago) link

But yet there is beauty narcotic and deciduous
In 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 comes
With 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 eyes
Who sneaks away while they are talking with you
Into some black wood behind the skull,
Following un-, or other, realities,
Fishing for shadows in a pool.

But sometimes the vagrant comes the other way
Out of their eyes and into yours
Having mistaken you perhaps for yesterday
Or for tomorrow night, a wood in which
He may pick up among the pine-needles and burrs
The lost purse, the dropped stitch.

Vagrancy however is forbidden; ordinary men
Soon come back to normal, look you straight
In the eyes as if to say 'It will not happen again',
Put up a barrage of common sense to baulk
Intimacy but by mistake interpolate
Swear-words like roses in their talk.

― MacNeice, "Conversation"


zvookster, Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:24 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten 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 (ten 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 tame
Had 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 Dream
Could never arras the room, where he spelled out True and Good
With their interleaving of half-truths and not-quites.

While for me from the age of ten the socketed wooden gate
Into a Dorset planting, into a dark
But 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 land
But here, grown six foot tall, find me also a love
Also out of the picture-book; whose hand
Would be soft as the webs of the wood and on her face
The wood-pigeon’s voice would shaft a chrism from above.

So in a grassy ride a rain-filled hoof-mark coined
By a finger of sun from the mint of Long Ago
Was the last of Lancelot’s glitter. Make-believe dies hard;
That the rider passed here lately and is a man we know
Is 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 frame
Escape, he thought, as I do, of bog or rock
But I have also this other, this English, choice
Into what yet is foreign; whatever its name
Each wood is the mystery and the recurring shock
Of 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 moored
To a village somewhere near. If not of to-day
They are not like the wilds of Mayo, they are assured
Of their place by men; reprieved from the neolithic night
By gamekeepers or by Herrick’s girls at play.

And always we walk out again. The patch
Of sky at the end of the path grows and discloses
An 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 (ten years ago) link

four months pass...

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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 how
To 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) link

I never remember holding a full drink.
My first look shows the level half-way down.
What next? Ration the rest, and try to think
Of higher things, until mine host comes round?

Some people say, best show an empty glass.
Someone will fill it. Well, I've tried that too.
You may get drunk, or dry half-hours may pass.
It seems to turn on where you are. Or who.

difficult listening hour, Monday, 22 October 2012 23:59 (nine years ago) link

love that one

Know how Roo feel (LocalGarda), Tuesday, 23 October 2012 14:13 (nine years ago) link

Use of rhyme is so downplayed it disappears.

Aimless, Tuesday, 23 October 2012 17:35 (nine years ago) link

six months pass...

is this the thread with the most geoffrey hill talk

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 14:25 (eight years ago) link

yeah, i think so. there's a bit of love elsewhere, but I don't think anyone says anything substantive.

woof, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 14:36 (eight years ago) link

the baffled/disappointed/angry comparison of Mike Skinner to Sir John Suckling, & incidental knocking of Let England Shake and guardian music journalist Dave Simpson.

still feel a bit like I dreamed this

woof, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 14:37 (eight years ago) link

Funny this thread was revived. Intended to drop by & post this line by line, all in caps, while bank holiday drunk.

Life is an immobile, locked,
Three-handed struggle between
Your wants, the world's for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings what you'll get.

Better mood today, sentence case will do.

woof, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 14:42 (eight years ago) link

ah, how often i use those lines to describe my own and other people's lives

Rowdy Rathore (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 14:53 (eight years ago) link

Weird. I reread Hill's Charles Péguy poem a couple weeks ago.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 15:07 (eight years ago) link

"unbeatable slow machine" might be my most frequent entering-head-unbidden poetry phrase.

woof, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 15:22 (eight years ago) link

watch love & death in hull rece

what a downer

cozen, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:23 (eight years ago) link

also memorised* this be the verse

*close enough

cozen, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:24 (eight years ago) link

:) "This Be the Verse" is conveniently amenable to memorization

Koné 2013 (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:24 (eight years ago) link

tho obv i'd be a hypocrite telling folks not to have any kids themselves

Koné 2013 (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:25 (eight years ago) link

How did you get love and death in hull, cozen? I have found only long dead torrents.

Tioc Norris (LocalGarda), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:27 (eight years ago) link

my videotaped copy is long gone sadly

Koné 2013 (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:29 (eight years ago) link

LG - you might like don paterson's first couple of collections? he's gotten a bit ~airy-er~ as time's got on but there's def echoes of larkin in the early stuff

cozen, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:29 (eight years ago) link

cozen, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:30 (eight years ago) link


Koné 2013 (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:31 (eight years ago) link

early paul farley channelling larkin to an extent also

cozen, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 20:35 (eight years ago) link

I was thinking about trying to develop some thoughts about Geoffrey Hill's most recent lecture and his project in general but I don't know. More relevantly to the thread's nominal purpose, I sold my collected Larkin today.

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Tuesday, 7 May 2013 22:38 (eight years ago) link

I wish they'd kept up with mp3s of the lectures. I think only the first three or four went up

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 07:29 (eight years ago) link

Peter Reading is like Larkin without the hatred of all things foreign.

Modlizki, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 09:29 (eight years ago) link

i love Larkin and Reading, but I don't quite see that, or the gap in sensibility isn't really to do with foreignness. Not sure.

just to continue on the Hill lectures (& I would like to hear what you have to say thomp), I am also now remembering the bit where he lays into Sam Leith for no real reason that I can remember.

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 11:59 (eight years ago) link

Mm. I was in Oxford for the last one and the guy I was staying with was going, so I thought I might as well; the last one I saw was last year when I was working on my master's, and I basically could barely follow it at all. This one seemed comparatively plain-speaking, though I asked my friend and the two other people to give me what they thought was the argument, at various points over the next 24 hours, and my friend was totally wrong and the other two just went 'yeah, no, I'd have no idea how to do that'.

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Wednesday, 8 May 2013 13:10 (eight years ago) link

yeah, after listening to the earlier ones I'd def have trouble precis-ing an argument - they're deliberately difficult, or roundabout. I remember thinking that I didn't understand quite how we'd got here when he'd be talking about Mandelstam, say, but then there'd be a moment of clarity, and I could see what i thought he was trying to do with the misdirecting and going backwards &c.

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 13:26 (eight years ago) link

Mercian Hymns XXV

Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera, I speak this in memory of my grandmother, whose childhood and prime womanhood were spent in the nailer's darg.

The nailshop stood back of the cottage, by the fold. It reeked stale mineral sweat. Sparks had furred its low roof. In dawn-light the troughed water floated a damson-bloom of dust ---

not to be shaken by posthumous clamour. It is one thing to celebrate the 'quick forge', another to cradle a face hare-lipped by the searing wire.

Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera, I speak this in memory of my grandmother, whose childhood and prime womanhood were spent in the nailer's darg.

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 13:26 (eight years ago) link

love that

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 13:26 (eight years ago) link

i love Larkin and Reading, but I don't quite see that, or the gap in sensibility isn't really to do with foreignness. Not sure.

Well, I wanted to say "all things foreign and intellectual", but it felt wrong even when I put "intellectual" in quotes and so I just gave up and tried for something comically reductive (and failed). Do you think it's wrong to suggest Reading as poet similar to Larkin? I think of both as English miserabilists, "laureates of decay" and so on, but I may be off on that as I'm not overly familiar with Reading's work. He's often too cryptic for me, to be honest, which is part of what I meant by foreignness: not just quotations in Spanish or whatever, but an entire aesthetic more in line with the kind of high modernism Larkin made a point of rejecting. Still, looking at some of Reading's early work just now, I did find plenty of Larkinesque moments. One poem in particular, "St James's", seems sort of apropos:

On Holy Thursday cycling in the Lakes
I found St James's on a pewter hill
and force of habit rather than desire
carried me on towards the wrought iron gates.

The dusty Dunlops and the worn out brakes
of my Rudge leaning on the lake-stone wall
seemed more akin to Larkin than to me.

Some stones inside the musty porch were Saxon,
and there, beside the patent-leather Eden
simmering round St James's in Lent sun,
the sexton, one spring day digging a grave,
in 1898 unearthed remains
that proved to be of Viking origin.

The latest stone, marked 1968,
shews that the process is still going on.
I, in my turn, turned the worn rusting latch,
saw the inevitable Norman arch
and, near the font, some notes by Reverend Twigge
about the church and its history —
he was the rector here in nineteen seven,
in his place now is Geoffrey Dennison Hill.

I climbed the old steps up the Western Tower
(added about 1248) and found
barrows of sticks from jackdaw generations,
piled in a stook beside the swaying bell
eggs and dry feathers and winged skeletons,
and I descended into the chancel,
observing, not from interest but a sense
of having to have a sense of history,
the aimless woodworms' doodles in the roof.

The empty Player's Weights pack in the font
belonged to Betjeman, I have no doubt,
and there was Larkin's shilling left in trust
as payment for the Reverend Twigge's epistle;

but I was not there, just a cardboard copy
guiltily going through the motions of
what all day-trippers do before they leave,
replacing bike clips, lingering at the door
giving the closing latch a final twist,
consulting Twigge one final time before
turning from font to underground stone kist.

Modlizki, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 17:10 (eight years ago) link

I do see it, sort of - like Reading as Pound modernism injected into Larkin/Movement anti-modernism (which is sort of a variety of Eliotic conservative modernism, maybe), but I think they're farther apart than they look even in early Reading - too tricksy, too self-conscious, cunning interlocking poems, about Larkin-ness rather than Larkiny. Not denying there's overlap - things like vers de societe, Sunny Prestatyn in particular- but I think the lyric urge isn't quite there in Reading maybe? Or doesn't trust itself. Nice comparison tho', I'm interested in why I draw back from it.

woof, Wednesday, 8 May 2013 20:25 (eight years ago) link

how many different modernisms do you think you can identify

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Wednesday, 8 May 2013 22:03 (eight years ago) link

sincere question

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Wednesday, 8 May 2013 22:03 (eight years ago) link

I just make them up when I need them

woof, Thursday, 9 May 2013 08:59 (eight years ago) link

I'm trying to answer this properly but i've been coerced into making a wordle for a powerpoint workshop presentation.

woof, Thursday, 9 May 2013 10:54 (eight years ago) link

I'd use a few diff kinds when thinking about things - it's fairly fluid & they exist in relation to one another & overlap, so idk, Pound & Eliot would go together in a different discussion. & it definitely reflects what I look at more closely, ie English Poetry, mostly - so, slightly ridiculously, the art/anti-art manifestoing movements of the early c20th are bundled in my head.

So if I just said 'Modernism', I'd mean primarily a big Joyce/Eliot/Pound category; that'd break into a make-it-new style - fractures fragments collages textuality etc etc etc - and then maybe a kind that retreats from that into classicism, that's more the Eliot end of things (& I'd take that line down to Hill).

vs that in my head is a more obviously late-Romantic modernism that's Yeats etc - looks like anti-modernism in places, & drifts towards meeting the Eliot tributary of hard modernism.

Then there are British subsets where the coordinates get more complicated for me - an establishment/bloomsbury variety, then the 30s poets sitting in a funny place where they're in an Eliot camp but still seem to have a dose of Georgian coming through, those nature/grail types in the novel like Mary Butts… categories sort of break down but that's what I'd expect them to do when you look at individuals, they become ways of finding interesting or useful questions.

I should really read that Alexandra Harris book on Romantic Moderns, but I am just a bit sus that she all Bloomsbury, John Piper, marvellous, whereas I think that is backing down from THE PROJECT

Larkin's an odd one because he does seem properly, thoroughly committed to anti-intellectual + pure british trads, but bits of otherness do keep breaking through.

back to wordle

woof, Thursday, 9 May 2013 11:55 (eight years ago) link

i recently read kevin jackson's constellation of genius, which is a kind of diaryish rundown of 1922, the year in modernism. it's not a theoretical or analytical book at all, but it does give a sense of the SPEED of modernism, and the many different currents (historical-cultural) feeding into it. jackson def favours eliot and (esp) pound as central to it all - and yeah, woolf in particular comes across as a horrible (social) snob about joyce - tho the centerpiece of the book is prob a dinner attended by proust, joyce, picasso and stravinsky. book also brought home to me just how right-wing/reactionary a lot of the modernists were - so there's another connection to larkin etc

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:05 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight years ago) link


Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:48 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight years ago) link

one month passes...

Good essay by James Fenton:

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 (eight years ago) link

seven months pass...


Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of 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 cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The 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, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-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 distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

rock nobster (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:47 (seven years ago) link

seven months pass...

turns out I'm a fan

SEEMS TO ME (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 30 August 2014 06:22 (seven years ago) link

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 30 August 2014 09:27 (seven years ago) link

six years pass...

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thus shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff 5
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font. 10
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new –
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant. 15
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I 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, 20
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases, 25
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some 30
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone? 35
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew 40
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he by my representative, 45

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth, 50
And death, and thoughts of these – for which was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutered frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is, 55
In 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 surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious, 60
And 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 (five months ago) link

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