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Philip Arthur Larkin CBE (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985) was an English poet and occasional novelist. He was one of the leading poets in England starting with The Less Deceived, released in 1955. His poems often contained soaring emotions involving life and death, but without going into cloying sentimentality or self-pity.

An intensely private man, Larkin worked as a librarian for decades at the University of Hull. He never married, but had a long-term relationship with Monica Jones, an English professor. He was offered, but declined, the position of British Poet Laureate a year before his death from cancer at age 63.


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Selected bibliography:

Poetry

  • The North Ship (1945)
  • XX Poems (1951)
  • Poems (1954)
  • The Less Deceived (1955)
  • The Whitsun Weddings (1964)
  • Corgi Modern Poets in Focus 5 (1971)
  • High Windows (1974)
  • Femmes Damnées (1978)
  • Aubade (1980)
  • Collected Poems (1989)

Prose

  • A Girl in Winter (1947)
  • Jill (1964)
  • All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961-68 (1970)
  • Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 (1984)
  • Selected Letters 1940-1985 (1992)


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His works contain examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: The speaker in Aubade
  • Betty and Veronica: "Wild Oats" is about two girls, a beautiful "English Rose" who intimidates the narrator, and her bespectacled friend whom the narrator feels comfortable talking to and who becomes his fiancee for a time.
  • The Big Easy: The setting of "For Sidney Bechet." (Larkin was a lifelong jazz fan.)
  • Cessation of Existence: Death in Aubade is described as this, which makes it utterly horrifying for the narrator.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: Larkin was one. Several of his poems, such as "Self's the Man" or "Dockery and Son", address whether he's better off than those who married and had children.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: The narrator of "Love Again" speaks of "wanking at ten past three" while obsessing over his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend's date with another man.
  • Generation Xerox: In "This Be the Verse" it is pointed out that the parents who fucked you up were "fucked up in their turn" by their parents.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Discussed in "Best Society". The narrator states that "our virtues are all social" and if you don't like company, "it's clear you're not the virtuous sort". In the last stanza, he defiantly still chooses solitude.
  • Meddling Parents: In "This Be the Verse", from High Windows.
  • Precision F-Strike: Again, "This Be the Verse". Also "High Windows".
  • Straw Nihilist: A large proportion of his poetry seems to present this viewpoint; particularly notable is Aubade, which is about the utter futility of life, given the inevitability of death.

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