Philip Larkin: Collected Poems, edited by Anthony Thwaite17 August 2008
I meant to post this on Tuesday, but as I’ve been getting slightly behind in my planned review-writing schedule I decided to give myself a little breathing room. I’m also trying to figure out some way to celebrate the first anniversary of this book review blog, which is coming up in a matter of days. In the meantime, though, here’s this review of an enjoyable poetry collection.
Philip Larkin: Collected Poems (edited by Anthony Thwaite)
A few years ago, after doing some research in the special collections at the University of Hull, I decided to pick up an edition of Philip Larkin‘s collected poems. Larkin spent much of his working life as a librarian at Hull, and during his time there he wrote most of the poetry for which he would become known. The volume in question is the Faber edition edited by Anthony Thwaite, one of Larkin’s literary executors — according to his introduction, the selection has been made to reflect the maturation of the poet’s writing style and craft over the years. (Or that’s what he says, at least.) But even for those who are unfamiliar with the nuances of Larkin’s writing style, this collection is an excellent selection of poetry from a very powerful writer, no matter how mundane (or titillating) the themes he chooses to observe.
Included in this book are poems that appeared in the different collections published in Larkin’s lifetime — The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings, High Windows — and other pieces of juvenelia and uncollected works. The poems for which Larkin is most famous certainly appear, including the oddly lilting ‘Annus Mirabilis’ (‘Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (Which was rather late for me) / Between the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP’), the stark ‘MCMXIV‘ with its echoes of the world before the Great War, and his decidedly anti-nostalgic ‘I Remember, I Remember’. In short, this collected edition is a good compact version of Larkin’s best-known works, illustrating his particular blend of frankness and introspection about life in postwar Britain.