Sunday, March 25, 2007


Philip Larkin was a miserible effing sod, useful as a bag of arses, porcine offspring roaming in the lab on a farm of pigs who are rotters. Did Phil ever use rozzers? If not he would have I suspect, the grumpy aul git, a thinking man's Alf Garnet shooting straight from the lip, life's shit, get over it, move on, die and fleet in an elemental abyss with the negative greats who refused to go to bed at boarding school.

He was reared in the emotional slums at an intensley depressing time in the history of middle class angst, questioning and railing against a bourgeois blandness they knew was their inevitable fate, their only hope of comedic relief, the onside bore would be happy to state as "earthy" gallows humour, but one which could offend the critical sensibilities of a post-modern third wave femminist or radical intellectual theorist.

His staus as a very important minor poet in the contemporary English lanaguage canon, is secure in spite of this librarian pre-disposed to moaning and whose public kudos and glamour ascended once he went to the ghost-world he strove to be party to and parly with. Acheived the complete detached utterance in a few poems of his that, if not enobling, are certainly heard by the reader's ear as attempts to rise above and reach higher peaks of poetical thought, where the eye is incredibly accurate in apprasing the weight of poetic reality, due to much study, effort and strength of whatever intellect turns within the hearth of experience one publically professes as marker or sign of a poetic wisdom we hold or express.

The image of Larkin as a square librarian has much solid primary truth for the poetic pallete to paint him as Coventry's premier bardic bore, of a primarily northern importance. His grammer school mind in tortuous mimesis in Hull, inversely cast as Ovid in banishment. But whereas Ovid was a social wit writing how-to-pull love poetry on which his fame rested and offended Emporer Agustus enough to cast him out in 8AD, far from the urbane imperial centre he once thrived at, Larkin's is the self imposed emotional exile of a bored bachelor, unwillingly cast as spokesman of middle class misery, far from where he bleakly yearns to be, his deep unhappiness compounded by knowing his life could be not else than that of a detached poet with a blandly original "I."

He is a huge hit with the more depressingly minded, whose sensibilities and primary critical force spinode with Philip's gloomy lyrical mind where "the sun-comprehending" sound is the light boredom of his inner moan for freedom droning on and on in a career of almost supreme self-pointlessness.

A tortured "I" who shuffled books and attended dreary drinks parties he will bitch about in a poetry overcome with what it sees as the anti-civilising agent of the masses, written by a man born into their very centre. The bullseye, trapped in furthest point of escape, unhappily unmarried and acceding to his fete as one destined to annal the decline in global influence of his country in relentless morbid verse. Duplicating in poetry a literary equivilent of the monotonous estates springing up in the working-class hinterland of East Riding, turning that part of what used to be Yorkshire, into one of Europes premier spots of social misrey.

Here is where an early concrete experiment in high-rise planning lunacy was being enacted by the messiahs of 60's Britons, practicing their art of architecture, professing it a catch-all answer to poverty, but which built laboratories of extremely detached thinking into which poured the Smash, HP Sauce and oilskin tablecloths of endless and drably coloured square design one can imagine Phil resting his elbows on, his librarian jacket hung in the functional coatroom by the door, hating Betjemen for being the lighter hearted of the two, yet secretly finding succour in his role as poet pissed off enough to start uttering the eff word in print.

His chosen emphisis is one of contemporary disgust with modernism, technology and the sociatal changes he bore witness to. A sensitive chap whose intellectual paradise was a fictional world in which one suspects a teddy bear and midnight campers in a tent on a beach solving the answer of life over a glass of sherry will appear, the dim yellow light and lapping whirr of the van's fridge a gentle pulse of background electronica, Phil in shorts wiping his glasses, staring at the moon and refusing to speak of a baggy and ever craggier looking Auden, who Larkin measures his progress by. Auden the common anchor of agreement in the wider poetic community.

All schools of contemporary thought converge on Auden and Larkin, the sensible man whose self-loathing arose at the centre of his materialistic existence of documenting the relationship between physical objects and the middle classes, hates him with the disturbing and still fury only a real librarian knows. He who spent his life in libraries, his creative mind outpouring at the calm pool of work in an academic factory's heart of literarture, where the full mind of all knowledge lay stacked, coded and readable.

The uniquely English aspect in his register of grim acceptance and resignation, is the tenor constrained, a full note of human tradgedy does not voice in poetic thermals which convey the full horror of ineffable sorrow. Whereas the history of some cultures accumulate to a dark national poetic psyche, such as Poland Russia and Hungary, Larkin's cause of sorrow is less continentally epic in scope, more regional in focus and outlook. His is the product and aural mirror of an insular mind deeply tucked in at the middle of it's scoiety.

If a plank contained the full spectrum of human psychology, at one end would be saints and scholars and the other would be the intellectually neutered and selfish who like to frighten, leave one in no doubt about what they think, by abandoning the decorum of a previously unwritten poetical law and start effing off. At the safety of his centre, acknowledging his insignificance and asking how poetry, in the generation after Auschwitz, can exist if humanity and techology harness and hate is societally coded into custom over a short period and allowed to run it's horrific course.

To profess poetry as an enobling, detached force of civilising inner wisdom connected to truth and beauty but veiled to the layman, is - to one who does not practice seeking the hidden higher force of language - often considered the occupation of active wierdos, best to be avoided and one wonders how many of today's crop of versemisths Larkin would have round for sherry and a moan about the then current devil.

The short spell of Architet gods orbiting as primary bores within the art world ended in the 1979 winter of discontent, when refuse piled up and rats swarmed. Philip's professional unhappiness at peak register. The knowing eye in " I told you so," tuned to a rarely reached height over a career of deeply begrudged non-affirmational poetry, the man who made effing respectable. His defining line translated into Hibernoenglish is

They feck you up your ma and da

A crazy bald head straight on the cutting edge of displeaseure, in well constructed verse, one mans relentless struggle with himself, a dull bored beauty rising in spite of the subject material, the "shit" he hates but will never escape, terminally trapped as he is to monotonous tedium and vapid self disgust of he who's linguistic fin flashed innner knowledge, his eye behind the "I" winking in tragi-comic glory only one's inner librarian would know. Thus an almost annonymous man from the midlands spent his career thinking up word combinations of eminently individual hue and design.

Larkin's "The sun-comprehending glass" is as individual a linguistic picture as a moon knowing lavatory brush, both arresting in their own way, one more clearly comic. Two combinations whose originality carry a similar poetic weight to an eye experienced in the science of specific linguistic arrangement and trained to access a spiriti mundi once within the poetic-trance, composing.

Phil's professed critical viewpoint is one primarily in a shabby travelling salesman and soggy breakfast flop house, a kip where words come and the thought comprehending sun beyond the veiled glass in high windows go past and beyond it. The deep blue nowhere of an endless grace note sounding and showing nothing but air, simple to recognise when the eye in Larkin deploys his most hacking of phrase, pale blue nothing, hinting of the dead ghost our tradition communes with.

I am in agreement, that the rarest of thought is found driving an epithet lofty in the life-pan filled with sung event and sing fully effable, balanced on its back by sorrow, ineluctable mimesis, a poetical process of time, trial hope and unaired draughts of Sophia from the hearth of mystery and mythical wisdom we deal in as mentalist or magus, act in a language class few know how to join, the entrance is free and wisdom Sophia who flits in the spiritual mundi and cosmic well as ones mind-reflection.

Phil's deep blue air of incredible nothingness where the answers to human phiosophy are answered by inaminate objects only, the hazier, less penitrible and more miserble, so much the better, for Phil followed the Edwardian's and he and Houseman are lumped together as a double act by Michael Schmidt in one of his open letters to Neil Astley.

1 comment:

Sean Murray said...

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