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Philip Larkin 1922-1985


Pithy, wry and understated, Philip Larkin was the master chronicler of the ordinary, suburban human experience, using the rhythms of everyday speech to memorable effect. He contributed several of the most quoted lines in modern poetry, including the notorious the opening line of This Be the Verse and Annus Mirabilis' witty refrain: 'Sexual intercourse began/ In nineteen sixty-three/ (which was rather late for me)'.

Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922 and went to Oxford in 1940. He failed the army medical examinations due to his poor eyesight, and so finished his degree uninterrupted by the war. At Oxford he met Kingsley Amis, who would become a great friend and mutual critic. After graduation Larkin became a librarian. He had several relationships with women but he never married. His early poetry was much influenced by WB Yeats, but while working at Queen's University Belfast, Larkin became associated with the anti-romantic literary grouping called The Movement. In 1955 he published his collection The Less Deceived and took up the post of librarian at the University of Hull, where he would remain until his death in 1985. It was while working at Hull he produced his best-known books Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows (1974) and where reputation has it he worked on his poetry every evening after work, before leaving the house to catch last orders.

Larkin published two novels in the 1940s, Jill and A Girl in Winter. Throughout the 1960s he contributed monthly reviews of jazz records to the Daily Telegraph. As a poet, he tapped into Britain's feelings of post war malaise and validated poetry centred on everyday life. The aim of his poetry, he suggested, was to give the impression of "a chap chatting to chaps".

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