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Customer Review

123 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These Be The Verses--5 x 5 Stars=Yes, 25 Stars, December 18, 2001
This review is from: Collected Poems (Paperback)
In five years, nine Larkinites have posted reviews to these pages. One laments the death of poetry's ability to move the masses, laments the lost world in which poetry was a master art, in which Longfellow might hold a theater in thrall with tales of Gitchee Gumee.
Why doesn't everyone who reads in the English Language know Philip Larkin?
Oh, this Larkin is most assuredly not for every taste--he is ugly, rueful, bitter, timorous, and in these he is wholly and perfectly one with his poetic voice. He is a formalist--a large quantity of rhymed iambic pentameter at a time when most "poetry" is indistinguishable from prose except in the way the lines are arranged--who sounds, miraculously, astonishingly, colloquial (the particular mark of his genius). Many of these poems attain a perfection--Aubade, High Windows, This Be The Verse, others, all relatively well known--that literally staggers the imagination. As with the (classic) jazz to which Larkin was so devoted, in which the players continually found "new" notes to blow, and even created new musical vocabularies when the old ones were exhausted, Larkin finds boundless new resources inside the English language and then bursts poetry's integument asunder when his straightlaced, albeit eccentric, formalism seems to hem him in.
Unlike most contemporary poets, Larkin creates lines you remember--indeed, cannot shake--and want to memorize for the delight, and mortification, of self and friends.
Larkin does not, by the bye, deal in any manner of obscurantism. What he means is clearly on the page. It may not leave you in the sunniest of dispositions, but it will lift you, powerfully, to another level of poetic appreciation.
This is a book for life by the major voice of my time.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 5, 2012 2:09:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 5, 2012 2:14:25 PM PST
"Five years, nine Larkinites." I made that comment more than 10 years ago, and today I'm happy to learn that this number has swollen to 35 reviewers, a still-too-low number, posting to both the original Thwaite volume of 1988 (and its subequent editions) and to the new new edition of 2003 that reflects Larkin's own ordering for his poems.

I'm writing here to observe, however, that amazon.com has run reviews of Thwaite's two editions of Larkin into a single sequence, found in both places under books of different covers, as though the paperback 2003 "Collected Poems" is merely some strain of "second edition." It is not. It is a different book, and the books vary in ways apart from the reordering of the poems, which is nevertheless a boon, rectifying editor Thwaite's initial silly and self-important decision, in the 1988 edition, to order the published poems not as Larkin assembled them, in their respective volumes, but by the date the meticulously annotating poet had ceased to tinker with them. The order was thus determined by Thwaite, from Larkin's own revised and dated manuscripts, and literally enjambed in a single long "Poems" section, without the titles of the book mentioned except as an appendix, with the poem titles given in their proper order (with page references to the poems themselves - an awkward system, to say the least). The second version of "Collected Poems" rectifies these wrongs but omits additional poems and notes included in the first.

Dear Amazon, the books deserve differentiated places for their own reviews.

And dear Amazonians: read more Larkin. Again. And again. And continue to cherish him and his memory. (And, while you're at it, obtain and read his Letters - sadly out of print - also redacted by Thwaite, for evidence of Larkin's generosity as a colleague, his smutty-mindedness and fondness for pornography - but you've already figured this out, in abundance, from the poetry - his fondness for, and knowledge of jazz music, his views on writing and writers, and the more controversial aspects of what people believe they espy in unguarded letters to close friends - racism, misogyny, retrograde politics - that ensuing years and research have undermined.
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