Thursday, 1 April 2010

The old man - still

Now I call myself a poet I sometimes get asked things like 'so who's your favourite poet then?' It's kind of an odd question...really I like bits of poems, lines here and there, ideas, sounds, juxtapositions...but the question wants an answer and there is one really so in the end I usually give it. I am very partial to both the poems and the humour and misery of the poet pictured above (Philip Larkin 1922-1985). I don't want to witter on about him but here are a couple of his poems - the first from 1955's 'The Less Deceived' and the second from 1964's 'The Whitsun Weddings'. To me he looked life right in its ugly face...well, in his poetry anyway.

Poetry of Departures

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,

And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
Its specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.

Philip Larkin


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.

Philip Larkin

You can hear the second poem via this clip too...

And there's an old post of mine with some Larkin quotes back here.



Jim Murdoch said...

Of course I have to agree. I'm not sure who sounds more miserable, me or him.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, funny coincidence that you've got an audio file on today too!

And there's misery and misery...


Titus said...

I like Larkin, and my copy of High Windows is (unusually) usually in reaching distance.

When I opened the post I thought it was going to be about Eric Morecombe.

Rachel Fox said...

I know...and Jim and I are joint presidents of the Eric Morecambe appreciation society too.

There's a site all about the 25 years since Larkin's death thing just now (here) and it uses a glasses logo - very M & W!


Eryl said...

I love a bit of Larkin myself, and I have his letters here to read one of these days. I think my favourite of his poems is 'Mr Bleaney' or possibly 'Church Going' but I probably haven't read them all.

McGuire said...

Larkin is quality; such autere misery, such a loving, horrible contempt for the world.

I have never heard or read 'The Day' poem before. It's fucking brilliant. Deceptively simple. And that running over the fields has me lauging and loving it. What a surreal a comic image as well as an idiomatic expression, in a way. (Ewww, idiomatic, very posh.)

Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I have 'High Windows' I do love it. Hard shell, egg yoke, poems, form Larkin.

Rachel Fox said...

He's a bit one of those poets, Eryl, where almost every poem you read seems better than the one before (well, I think so...). I read the poem 'High Windows' yesterday too - it is excellent (that slide...frighteningly familiar...). You can read 'High Windows' here. Let someone else break the law today.

McGuire's the running in coats that always stays in my mind from that poem (amongst other things). My Dad was a fan of his and a doctor/GP so I always wonder what he thought of that bit.


Ken Armstrong said...

I think of Jim when I think of Larkin now.

I think of you as well, but that's not a 'Miserable' thing. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I am cheerful-miserable! Otherwise known as contrary...