herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

This year is the 30th anniversary of the poet Philip Larkin's death (1922-1985). His reputation has grown, and it is clear he may well have been the best poet of his generation, better than McNeice orAuden and even the smug Eliot.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the poet Philip Larkin's death (1922-1985). His reputation has grown, and it is clear he may well have been the best poet of his generation, better than McNeice orAuden and even the smug Eliot.

I got to know of him through Irish novelist Maeve Brennan, whose lover he was. At one time Maeve used to spend most of her evenings in the United Arts Club. She had a special laugh whenever Larkin came up in conversation, which she usually backed up with the information that "Philip's amorous adventures made Henry VIII look like a Cistercian monk".

Larkin never married, preferring to simmer in sexuality in an adventurous life, even dispensing with his religion which he dismissed as "that vast moth-eaten musical brocade created to pretend we never die".

Philip Larkin's verse has a bare rhythm which can carry to the ear intimate subtleties of sound.

In the poem here, when you read the first two lines the animal comes before you padding down the streets which "echo with silence", and what about the street lamp's battle with the inevitable coming of the morning sun?

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