Simon Armitage reflects on 10 Philip Larkin poems to mark centenary
The poet laureate Simon Armitage will be examining Philip Larkin’s poems in 10 BBC Radio 4 programmes, starting on Monday 8 August, to mark the centenary of Larkin’s birth. The poems he will be looking at in Larkin Revisited are ‘Born Yesterday’; ‘Love Songs in Age’; ‘Talking in Bed’; ‘Toads Revisited’; ‘High Windows’; ‘To the Sea’; ‘Going Going’; ‘Bridge for the Living’; ‘Aubade’; and ‘The Whitsun Weddings’.
Larkin was offered but declined the position of poet laureate in 1984, following the death of Sir John Betjeman. Larkin himself died the following year. His poems are marked by what Andrew Motion calls "a very English, glum accuracy" about emotions, places, and relationships; Larkin himself said that deprivation for him was "what daffodils were for Wordsworth". The posthumous publication by Anthony Thwaite in 1992 of his letters triggered controversy about his personal life and political views. Despite the controversy Larkin was chosen in a 2003 Poetry Book Society survey, almost two decades after his death, as Britain's best-loved poet of the previous 50 years.
BBC4 was broadcasting four programmes on the day of his birthday, Tuesday, 9 August: Return to Larkinland, with AN Wilson; Philip Larkin and the Third Woman, with Sir Andrew Motion; a Monitor programme featuring Larkin and Sir John Betjeman titled Down Cemetery Road; and a look at Larkin, as seen through his photography.
Larkin’s birthday was being celebrated in Hull, where he spent the last 30 years as the university’s chief librarian, with an afternoon of poetry, dance and music titled ‘Finding Home’ at Hull Truck Theatre, featuring Imtiaz Dharker, Matthew Sweet, Vicky Foster, The Broken Orchestra, Wes Finch and the JoinedUp Dance Company. In the evening there was an evening with Simon Armitage at the University of Hull’s Middleton Hall. August 9 also sees the opening of an exhibition by the artist DJ Roberts called ‘Larkinworld 2’, a reworking of the artist’s installation at the National Poetry Library on London’s South Bank in 2017.The exhibition will be hosted in the University of Hull’s Art Gallery at the Brynmor Jones Library, running from 9 August 9 to 25 September.
On Thursday 11 August there will be a showing of Your Mum and Dad: A Devastating Truth, a film by Klaartje Quirijns, at Parkway Cinema in Beverley, East Yorkshire - a film which echoes the sentiments of Larkin’s most quoted poem and in which he makes a brief appearance.
There will be revival of Ben Brown’s play, Larkin With Women, at the Old Red Lion, Islington, north London, from 31 August to 17 September. The final matinee performance on 17 September will feature a Q&A session between Ben Brown and Philip Larkin Society president Rosie Millard. Two days earlier there will be a Larkin Day in Wellington, Shropshire, where Larkin began his career as a public librarian, including a guided walk, a talk in the library, and the premiere of a short film, ‘Larkin in the West Midlands’, made by Dan Cummings and Lee Harris.