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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Complete Poems
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A beautifully published, well edited collection of Larkin's poetry. Arnie Burnett's editorial work has generated an exuisite volume, complete with incisive commentary on each poem, in addition to Larkin's original working notes. There are also a number of unpublised poems here, of varying quality. As to Larkin's corpus, it is quite clear that he continues to appear as one of Britain's major literary talents. Poems such as Hight Windows and Here have an enduring coldness and beauty, a beauty that refuses all sentiment. Larkin's disposition was, of course, strangely desolate, and hermetic. I can identify with his coldness, his collected reflections. I cannot always access his peculiar refusal to relate to others. His is a poetry that captures the failure of relating, as well as of belonging. His voice only penned a few poems, but they are among our greatest.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This collection has the poems which have previously been unavailable in addition to all of Larkin's published poems. The latter part of the volume has extensive notes on sources. The addition of the unpublished poems gives further insight into Larkin's famous preoccupation with death. He does not seem to be concerned with the act of dying, the process which gives pause to most of us. He is afraid of the existential state of nonbeing which death entails. Leaving death aside, many of the unpublished poems are very funny.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This complete collection of Larkin's Poetry served to remind, at least me, of the beauty of "unbullied" language, and how truly great of a poet Philip Larkin was. The book's commentary is a great way for lovers of Larkin to understand how Larkin composed his poems and, in some cases, how long it took him to be satisfied that a poem was complete (I think of "The Whitsun Weddings" which took, all told, almost three years to write [if you begin at the date of the occurrence]). The only think I would liked to have seen would have been a Table of Contents that listed all the poems and their respective pages rather than simply each book, his unpublished, and his incomplete poems; but the organization of the book is not so bad as to warrant removing a star.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've always been ambivalent about Philip Larkin's place as Britain's greatest post-war poet, but this collection adds to the poems an extensive commentary which helps explain Larkin's pessimism and gloomy outlook. The poems of course stand alone, but the commentary helps in understanding Larkin as someone not entirely mired in discontent, who is reacting in a visceral and personal way to the more troubling circumstances of his life. There are some truly great poems here, and lovely, spare descriptive passages. To my mind, some of his best work remained unpublished in his lifetime and these poems can lead to a new appreciation of his work. Just don't read the book to cheer yourself up.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
That Larkin is Britain's favourite poet is down to his spare, stripped down, conversational style, combined with a dyspeptic view of life which seems congenial to the British in a way Americans can't always share:

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.

That is taken from "This Be The Verse", an oddly titled lyric poem in three verses of four iambic tetrameters on an alternating rhyme scheme, with its even more famous opening line (which I won't quote here because it contains an expletive).

This is a fine volume of Larkin's poems, full of scholarly annotations, essential reading for anybody wanting to mug up on this titan of 20th century poetry.

His obsession with death and the futility he saw in life may be dark and depressing, but the vitality in it shines through. Larkin is an unmissable poet, plumbing the very depths of despair.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
To my own surprise and embarrassment this was my first, real engagement with Larkin outside an anthologized poem or two like "Here."

I've been told that Larkin's style and topical interest varies a bit in quality from work to work; but the poems in this collection are simply stellar and revelatory. I can't think of another poet I've read recently who demonstrates such incredibly precise control and sumptuous taste in his word nuances. Perhaps Galway Kinnell maybe. But there ae asterisks and exclamation marks and "wows" written all over the margins of this book.

By way of example (and keep in mind, these are just isolated lines): Larkin renames a baby, "tightly folded bud," Spring is "fold of untaught flower, is race of water,/Is earth's most multiple, excited daughter," the past is "a valley cropped by fat neglected chances/that we insensately forbore to fleece," and skin as "Obedient daily dress."

Needless to say, these lines begin, form the body of, and end exquisite poems.

I can't wait to continue exploring more Larkin. There is a surprise at every linguistic turn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This collection has two things going for it ....Larkin's poems and Burnett's commentary and notes . Coupled together the result becomes a rich insightful look at the poet and his mind . This is much more than just a reprinting of poems as most collections tend to be , instead, each poem illuminates the writer's thought process revealing a poet who cared about what he wrote . I highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in poetry and/or the process of this art . Wonderful !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Imagine the Collected Poems of Yeats (Variorum Edition) combined in a volume with the revised edition of A. Norman Jeffares's "Commentary." That's just about what we've got here for Philip Larkin's poems, and it's possible in one volume because Larkin wrote a lot less than Yeats did. But the publication of this volume marks the acceptance of Larkin fully into the canon -- he's a poet who apparently deserves the full dress treatment of carefully edited texts, notes of textual variants, careful dating of drafts, insofar as that is possible, and contextualization of biographical, cultural, literary, and critical kinds. The editor, Archie Burnett, who as far as I can tell from brief perusal, does a splendid job, is at pains to stress in his Introduction that previous editions of Larkin's poems contained inaccuracies in matters of text and dating and that it is the purpose of his edition to set these matters right. The establishment of that kind of accuracy has always been a rationale for new editions of an author's works, and the only thing that's unusual here is that this is being done on this scale only thirty years or so after Larkin's death. As far as I know, we don't yet have anything like this for, say, Wallace Stevens, or poet slightly older than Larkin, Robert Lowell (who admired Larkin's work) or slightly younger, like Ted Hughes.

For all that, I'm not complaining. This is a lovely volume (I'm reviewing the paperback edition), and I've long ago learned that I love reading poems with one finger stuck in the back of the book where the notes are and negotiating my way through a poem with the notes as a constant source of information. It's for people like that that this volume was meant, and abbreviations and citations and the minutiae of textual description of accidental features just add to the charm. The only thing that I might wonder about are the critical notes in the Commentary: the comments on the poem "High Windows," for example, reference Mallarme and Ursula K. LeGuin. Do we know that Larkin was familiar with their work? Does it matter if he wasn't? These aren't rhetorical questions -- it would be interesting to know (and Burnett doesn't say). But if answers to such questions aren't forthcoming, then it's possible that some of the notes might, after a while, appear dated. There's going to be a whole lot of writing about Larkin done in the next decade, say. Are we to assume that later editions of this volume will update the notes "to keep up with current scholarship"? It might be better to limit interpretive and intertextual comment in such Commentary to matters where Larkin's acquaintance with the issues and other writers referenced is clearly established. Clearly, Burnett had to be selective in what he put in the Commentary, and one has no quarrel with his decision to cite Larkin's own comments on particular poems and issues, but once we move beyond Larkin to matters that academic critics find of interest, there is a risk of giving speculation (no matter how interesting and thoughtful) a status equal to that of Larkin's own observations. That's not to say that all that Larkin might have to say about this or that poem is to be taken a determinative of its interest for us, but clearly the poet's own words have a weight that critical speculation doesn't quite match. I should add, in fairness to Burnett, that his organization of the items in the Commentary is impressively clear and sensible. The textual and dating comments are clearly distinct from the contextualizing comments.

All in all, though, this is a fine book, nicely printed and easy on the eye, and I'm in no doubt that Larkin is as deserving of this treatment as Byron or Hopkins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Many readers in America don't know Philip Larkin's poetry at all, which is too bad. He was, arguably, England's greatest poet of the last half of the twentieth century. Everything is here. An important addition to any modern poetry collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
My son requested this for Christmas and he was delighted that I was able to get it for him. He is an avid reader and this was a great addition to his library.
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