“Deprivation is to me what daffodils are to Wordsworth,” said Philip Larkin, who would have turned 100 this August. For many he was the most important poet in post-war Britain. He exerts a rare fascination on other writers: he helped his friend Kingsley Amis to write Jim’s luckMartin Amis has found that his poetry “reads like distilled stories”, Andrew Motion wrote a biography about him, Clive James devoted decades to those lines “that didn’t sound like poetry at all / and yet they were”.
Novelist —Impedimenta has published jill, a girl in winter and youth entertainment Tangle at Willow Gables—, for decades librarian at the University of Hull, jazz critic, sometimes his poetry, which appears in September’s Lumen, has the sad atmosphere of an English day: clay white, no sun. His realism, wrote Johnny Lyons, consists of skepticism, sincerity, humor, ambivalence and courage. In one letter, he described intercourse as “asking another person to blow your nose,” and some of his verses depict a dyspeptic vision: “Your mother and father screw up your life,” he says in it This is the verse, and recommends “Get out as soon as possible, / and don’t have children”. He deliberately maintained an unattractive image; he avoided marriage (much to the chagrin of his partner of decades, Monica Jones); his reputation suffered after his death, with racist and reactionary remarks in some of his letters and a heroic penchant for pornography. You read it and want to take its verses with you.
In a few lines albada speaks of the fear of death, describes the passage of time and emptiness, refutes the consolation of religion or philosophy, points to the blind indifference of death, and displays a heartfelt and resigned determination while tracing a movement that encompasses the city or all of humanity, with “Doctors [que] like postmen they go from house to house”. It describes generational illusions, the transformation of the landscape, a kind of restlessness and meaninglessness that is sometimes almost saved by a moment of attention or even love.
His relentless, clear and precise gaze and his extraordinary capacity for evocation and synthesis have something that elevates you: the sense of transparency where “more than words comes to you the idea of tall windows: / the glass that surrounds the sun , / And beyond that, the deep blue sky, which shows nothing and is nowhere and is infinite”. @gascondaniel
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