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Creator / Philip Larkin

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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 involved with life and death, but without ever going into either cloying sentimentality or self-pity.

An intensely private man, Larkin worked for decades as a librarian at the University of Hull in Yorkshire. 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.
  • Creature of Habit: In "Toads Revisited," Larkin, who'd complained about having to work in an earlier poem "Toads," acknowledges he likes the structure and sense of purpose his job gives him.
  • 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.
  • Parents as People: "This Be the Verse", again.
  • Precision F-Strike: "This Be the Verse", once more. Also "High Windows".
  • Sex Is Liberation: Played with in "High Windows." The speaker at the start of the poem seems to envy young people's sexual freedom thanks to birth control. On the other hand, he recalls how the generation before his assumed he'd be much freer and happier than he is and refers somewhat ambiguously to the younger generation's "long slide down to happiness."
  • 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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