Monday 22 January 2018

The Sunday Poem: Anthony Cronin’s personal anthology

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Philip Larkin statue, railway station concourse, Hull.
Philip Larkin statue, railway station concourse, Hull.

Larkin was a truth-teller. It was, you might say, his stock-in-trade. He uncovered emotions and states of mind which often lie beneath those we feel or think we feel or pretend to feel. And he was also a very accomplished versifier so he did this in a manner which admits of no denial.

The uncovered emotion has the last laugh. Where other poets established a personal myth which confirmed the poetic as a major part of their being, Larkin's myth was to be the average bloke with a routine job - a librarianship at Hull University - and have no truck with the visionary, the inspired or the numinous, which he distrusted. His weakness, as exhibited by the last verse here, is a tendency to point the moral. In spite of the brilliant metaphor of the coastal shelf I can't help feeling that the poem would be better off with a different summation. Still, his best poems are examples of the fact that, as Emerson said, the truth once stated is instantly received.

This Be The Verse

Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

The 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.

Sunday Independent

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