Philip Larkin: Poems Background

Philip Larkin: Poems Background

Born in Coventry, England in 1922, Philip Larkin belongs to the particular group of poets who maintained a steady job bringing in a reliable income while devoting his creative energy to his literary pursuits. Larkin’s 9-to-5 job for most of his life was that of librarian, eventually overseeing the University of Hull’s Brynmor Jones Library. In addition to a prolific output of poetry collections, Larkin published a couple of novels and in the early 1970’s edited The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Verse.

The strong influence of legendary poets W.B. Yeats and W.H. Auden informed his first collection, The North Ship, published in 1945. That very same year saw the publication of his first novel which he followed up with his second and last published flirtation in long form fiction just two years later. In the interim, Larkin had discovered the verse of Thomas Hardy and it was fellow Brit whose work would help guide him toward establishing his place in the country’s canon. The publication in 1955 of The Less Deceived revealed the integration of Hardy’s poetic ethos into the Larkin’s work and set the stage for that which would define him and grant him his own elevated status in the history of 20th century poetry.

The Whitsun Weddings, published in 1964, established Larkin as one of the few poets to attain the status of celebrity, earned him the prestigious Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and was instrumental in his being named England’s best-loved poet by the Poetry Book Society in 2003, almost twenty years after his death in 1985. So popular has Larkin remained, in fact, that the discovery of audio recordings of the poet reading his own works were discovered, these “lost” recordings resulted in a BBC radio special featuring background about the discovery as well as the poet's recitations titled “The Larkin Tapes” and subsequent issue of the tapes on CD in 2009.

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