the archivist July 7, 2012

I’d seen Philip Larkin’s poems before, in that way that you see the same few poems of a poet anthologized and shared, and do not dig into the rest of his or her body of work. And yet somehow I don’t think I really read the poem that is his most famous, until recently, when it seemed to coincide with exactly what my diary (and this blog) was struggling to contain. They may not mean to, but they do. (Sigh.)

Since then, I’ve been tracking down all the Larkin I can find. This is quite an interesting  one, one that he dared not publish in his Collected Poems:


The Literary World

‘Finally, after five months of my life during which I could write nothing that would have satisfied me, and for which no power will compensate me…’

My dear Kafka,
When you’ve had five years of it, not five months,
Five years of an irresistible force meeting an
immoveable object right in your belly,
Then you’ll know about depression.

Mrs. Alfred Tennyson

begging letters
admiring letters
insulting letters
enquiring letters
business letters
and publishers’ letters.
She also
looked after his clothes
saw to his food and drink
entertained visitors
protected him from gossip and criticism
And finally

(apart from running the household)
Brought up and educated the children.

While all this was going on
Mister Alfred Tennyson sat like a baby
Doing his poetic business.

Philp Larkin: The Complete Poems

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