By most accounts, Philip Larkin was a dour and unhappy human being. He did love jazz, though, and reviews of his work introduced me to Bix Beiderbecke, whom I love.
If you’re interested in more Larkin after this, I would suggest first reading several articles. Martin Amis writes about Larkin in his The War Against Cliche, a collection of critical work, and Clive James writes of Larkin in As of this Writing, his “essential essays”.
I chose this poem last week, but it has special, tangential resonance in that Philip Larkin’s in-no-way-related-whatsoever namesake Barry Larkin, whom I grew up watching, just made the baseball Hall of Fame. Also, a close friend just had her first child. Congratulations! And know that this poem is in no way a reflection on your special time (or is it?).
This Be the Verse
BY PHILIP LARKIN
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.