Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love

23JAMES-master315Michael Dirda at The Washington Post:

As late as the 1970s, it was hard to find Philip Larkin’s poetry in American bookstores. I remember searching all over Washington for his first collection, “The North Ship” (1945), before locating a paperback in the now long-gone Daedalus Bookshop next to the Uptown Theater. I already owned shabby copies of “The Less Deceived” (1955), “The Whitsun Weddings” (1964) and “High Windows” (1974), but I can no longer remember how I first discovered Larkin’s work. It was certainly prior to Noel Perrin’s moving essay on the long poem “Church Going,” part of the wonderful series of “Rediscoveries” he wrote for Book World in the 1980s and later collected in “A Reader’s Delight.”

Today, of course, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is as famous a poet as any in the second half of the 20th century. In England he holds a roughly comparable position to Robert Frost in the United States — a beloved, curmudgeonly figure, with dark corners in his private life, who produced clear, accessible poetry that, once read, could never be forgotten. “Sexual intercourse began/ In nineteen sixty-three/ (which was rather late for me). . . . What will survive of us is love. . . . Age, and then the only end of age. . . . Never such innocence again.”

more here.