Well, here I go again – attempting to write about poetry… But I can’t not in this case, as it’s one of my favourite poets – Philip Larkin – and although I have a chunky Collected edition of his works, I was moved to pick up a slim volume, “High Windows”, in the charity shop recently. And having a skinny book of verse most definitely fires the poetry reading part of the soul more than a big edition does!

I’m hoping that Larkin doesn’t need any introduction here on the Ramblings; I’ve written about him regularly, and he could be described as the best Poet Laureate this country never had. I first read his poems back in my Grammar School years, and carried his “If, my darling” round in my heart for decades. On the basis of his novel “A Girl in Winter” he was no mean prose writer too, and his rather lugubrious poetry (and delivery of it!) is a huge favourite of mine. I’m not sure quite what impelled me to pick this up now (unless it was as a reaction to my recent reading along of the dense “Berlin Alexanderplatz”), but there you go!

“High Windows” was the last collection of new works released by Larkin in his lifetime; it was issued in 1974 and Larkin died in 1985. But for a book released so late in his career, a career in which he’d already attained a high profile, it contains a remarkable number of well-known titles. His most notorious is perhaps “This Be The Verse” which opens with the unforgettable line “They f*** you up your mum and dad” and goes on to opine that there’s not much point in carrying on the human race! Then there’s “Annus Mirabilis”, where the ageing poet laments the fact that he was born too late for the sexual revolution of the 1960s, instead having to live through times when sex had to be bargained for through marriage.

The poems are often bitter, the words of an ageing man trying (and usually failing) to come to terms with the increasing frailties of the body. However, his range is not narrow and a poem like “Going, Going” sees Larkin addressing in a prescient manner the mess we’re making of the our beautiful planet:

Things are tougher than we are, just
As earth will always respond
However we mess it about;
Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:
The tides will be clean beyond.
-But what do I feel now? Doubt?

…. For the first time I feel somehow
That it isn’t going to last…

Inevitably, however, the poems turn on death and decay; but despite the subject matter perhaps being gloomy, these are profound, moving and very human verses and I found myself seduced all over again by Larkin’s writing.

At death, you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other forever
With no one to see. It’s only oblivion, true…

And despite his grumpiness, he often shows compassion and a kind of empathy for his fellow man; the last poem in the collection, “The Explosion”, is a powerfully resonant piece of work about a mining disaster and lingers in mind.

Philip Larkin by Humphrey Ocean [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Basically, I love Larkin and I think his poetry is just *so* good. He writes about the ordinary, the domestic, the daily lives and struggles of human beings in a way that gets to the nub of things. I may be no expert on poetry, but I know what I like and relate to – and Philip Larkin will always be in my top ten; it’s not hard to see from this collection why he’s such a well beloved poet! 😀