Mister Larkin



Poems, deep on many levels,

May end up nowhere near enough.

At such a time, we should give thanks

That Mister Larkin did his stuff.


It’s true he had a gloomy side

And used the odd indecent word,

But nobody would claim his work

Would better be unseen or heard.


He wrote about the everyday,

Of unspent childhood, wedding feasts,

Sullied posters, non-commitment,

The tiny tragedies of beasts.


Time, but never cheap nostalgia.

Place, far beyond the postcard kind.

Doctors, louts, reflective journeys;

His world, with something on its mind.


(Recently I penned this little tribute to the poetry of Philip Larkin,

in recognition of all the pleasure it has given me.

I am pleased to share it with you).

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Stephen Gospage

Sun 2nd May 2021 16:24

Thanks Greg and Brian. A very interesting discussion. Let's continue to enjoy reading him, without minimising the other issues.

Best wishes Steve

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Brian Hodgkinson

Sun 2nd May 2021 06:05

If poets are to be cancelled for having irregular (evil? depending on what passes for that in whatever generation) views, at times, then I'm afraid very few would survive scrutiny. I read poets whose viewpoints I abhor, but value something in their writing anyway-- yes, separate the poetry from the poet.

And Stephen, good job

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Greg Freeman

Sat 1st May 2021 23:22

Well said, Stephen. And I agree with you about separating the poetry from the man.

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 1st May 2021 17:59

I feel the same as you do, Greg. I have always struggled to reconcile Larkin's wonderful poetry with the his appalling personal views. One cannot dress them up or attempt to contextualise them; they were blatantly racist and should be condemned as such. I heard about the passing of Anthony Thwaite but I don't think it is a bad thing that the letters and all the subsequent revelations became public.

So how can I write a poem like this? Well, unlike, say Wagner (whose well-known prejudices are vividly on display in his operas), Larkin's racism does not by and large seem to have spilled over into his poetry. I don't subscribe fully to the idea that you can separate the art from the artist but I do think one can enjoy Larkin's verse without having to give consideration to his bigotry. The poetry exists in its own universe, which seems blissfully sealed off from his more uncomfortable views, although of course his poems are not always devoted to pleasant themes. My poem is concerned with the poetry, not the man.

So this poem should really be a tribute to the poetry, not to Larkin himself. I'll change the postscript to this effect.

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Greg Freeman

Fri 30th Apr 2021 23:35

I am a Larkin fan too, Stephen, but not unashamed, I fear. The racism that he shared in his letters to Monica was awful. The poet who edited his poems and those letters. Anthony Thwaite, recently died. He might have spared Larkin's reputation somewhat had he kept them out. I'm not saying he should have done, but ...

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