Biography of Philip Larkin
Born in 1922 in Coventry, England. He attended St. John's College, Oxford.
His first book of poetry, The North Ship, was published in 1945 and, though not particularly strong on its own, is notable insofar as certain passages foreshadow the unique sensibility and maturity that characterizes his later work. In 1946, Larkin discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy and became a great admirer of his poetry, learning from Hardy how to make the commonplace and often dreary details of his life the basis for extremely tough, unsparing, and memorable poems. With his second volume of poetry, The Less Deceived (1955), Larkin became the preeminent poet of his generation, and a leading voice of what came to be called 'The Movement', a group of young English writers who rejected the prevailing fashion for neo-Romantic writing in the style of Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Like Hardy, Larkin focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity.
In 1964, he confirmed his reputation as a major poet with the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, and again in 1974 with High Windows: collections whose searing, often mocking, wit does not conceal the poet's dark vision and underlying obsession with universal themes of mortality, love, and human solitude. Deeply anti-social and a great lover (and published critic) of American jazz, Larkin never married and conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died in 1985.
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Philip Larkin Poems
Once I am sure there's nothing going on I step inside, letting the door thud shut. Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night. Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Slowly the women file to where he stands Upright in rimless glasses, silver hair, Dark suit, white collar. Stewards tirelessly Persuade them onwards to his voice and hands,
An Arundel Tomb
Side by side, their faces blurred, The earl and countess lie in stone, Their proper habits vaguely shown As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
When I see a couple of kids And guess he's fucking her and she's Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know this is paradise
Beyond the dark cartoons Are darker spaces where Small cloudy nests of stars Seem to float on air.
The Old Fools
What do they think has happened, the old fools, To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose It's more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools, And you keep on pissing yourself, and can't remember
The Whitsun Weddings
That Whitsun, I was late getting away: Not till about One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
Closed like confessionals, they thread Loud noons of cities, giving back None of the glances they absorb.
What are days for? Days are where we live. They come, they wake us Time and time over.
Cut grass lies frail: Brief is the breath Mown stalks exhale. Long, long the death
For Sidney Bechet
That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes Like New Orleans reflected on the water, And in all ears appropriate falsehood wakes,
Sexual intercourse began In nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me) - Between the end of the Chatterley ban
Strange to know nothing, never to be sure Of what is true or right or real, But forced to qualify or so I feel, Or Well, it does seem so:
New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books,too,
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.