Erotic Fridays: Philip Larkin

phil

Here’s today’s poet Philip Larkin.

Philip Larkin was born in Coventry, England in 1922. He earned his BA from St. John’s College, Oxford, where he befriended novelist and poet Kingsley Amis and finished with First Class Honors in English. After graduating, Larkin undertook professional studies to become a librarian. He worked in libraries his entire life, first in Shropshire and Leicester, and then at Queen’s College in Belfast, and finally as librarian at the University of Hull. In addition to collections of poetry, Larkin published two novels—Jill (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947)—as well as criticism, essays, and reviews of jazz music. The latter were collected in two volumes: All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961-1968 (1970; 1985) and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 (1984). He was one of post-war England’s most famous poets, and was commonly referred to as “England’s other Poet Laureate” until his death in 1985. Indeed, when the position of laureate became vacant in 1984, many poets and critics favored Larkin’s appointment, but Larkin preferred to avoid the limelight.

Larkin achieved acclaim on the strength of an extremely small body of work—just over one hundred pages of poetry in four slender volumes that appeared at almost decade-long intervals. These collections, especially The Less Deceived (1955), The Whitsun Weddings (1964), and High Windows (1974), present “a poetry from which even people who distrust poetry, most people, can take comfort and delight,” according to X.J. Kennedy in the New Criterion. Larkin employed the traditional tools of poetry—rhyme, stanza, and meter—to explore the often uncomfortable or terrifying experiences thrust upon common people in the modern age. As Alan Brownjohn noted in Philip Larkin, the poet produced without fanfare “the most technically brilliant and resonantly beautiful, profoundly disturbing yet appealing and approachable, body of verse of any English poet in the last twenty-five years.”

(From the Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/philip-larkin)

Larkin is another poet who have not have the pleasure of reading, but whose works I plan to add to my growing list. Below is one which I love and hope you like as well. Enjoy

F. M. Laster

“I only like two kinds of men, domestic and imported.” -Mae West

 

Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album

By Philip Larkin

At last you yielded up the album, which

Once open, sent me distracted. All your ages

Matt and glossy on the thick black pages!

Too much confectionery, too rich:

I choke on such nutritious images.

My swivel eye hungers from pose to pose —

In pigtails, clutching a reluctant cat;

Or furred yourself, a sweet girl-graduate;

Or lifting a heavy-headed rose

Beneath a trellis, or in a trilby-hat

(Faintly disturbing, that, in several ways) —

From every side you strike at my control,

Not least through those these disquieting chaps who loll

At ease about your earlier days:

Not quite your class, I’d say, dear, on the whole.

But o, photography! as no art is,

Faithful and disappointing! that records

Dull days as dull, and hold-it smiles as frauds,

And will not censor blemishes

Like washing-lines, and Hall’s-Distemper boards,

But shows a cat as disinclined, and shades

A chin as doubled when it is, what grace

Your candour thus confers upon her face!

How overwhelmingly persuades

That this is a real girl in a real place,

In every sense empirically true!

Or is it just the past? Those flowers, that gate,

These misty parks and motors, lacerate

Simply by being you; you

Contract my heart by looking out of date.

Yes, true; but in the end, surely, we cry

Not only at exclusion, but because

It leaves us free to cry. We know what was

Won’t call on us to justify

Our grief, however hard we yowl across

The gap from eye to page. So I am left

To mourn (without a chance of consequence)

You, balanced on a bike against a fence;

To wonder if you’d spot the theft

Of this one of you bathing; to condense,

In short, a past that no one now can share,

No matter whose your future; calm and dry,

It holds you like a heaven, and you lie

Unvariably lovely there,

Smaller and clearer as the years go by.

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