Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

Unseen Larkin poem unearthed by BBC arts documentary

A previously unseen and unpublished poem by one of the nation's favourite poets, Philip Larkin, has been discovered by the BBC as part of an arts programme marking the 25th anniversary of his death.

The poem, called Dear Jake, will be seen and read for the first time in a half-hour documentary Philip Larkin And The Third Woman, due to be broadcast on BBC One in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire on Sunday 5 December at 6pm and broadcast nationally on BBC Four on Tuesday 7 December at 8pm.

During his lifetime Larkin was known for his relationships with two women – Monica Jones and Maeve Brennan – who are buried close to him in Cottingham Cemetery near Hull. Philip Larkin And The Third Woman looks at the story of Larkin's secretary of 28 years, Betty Mackereth, who was recently uncovered as Larkin’s third lover.

The programme sees Betty breaking her silence to speak out for the first time about her relationship with the acclaimed writer. In doing so the programme's producers tracked down the whereabouts of a lost notebook, overlooked when Larkin's house was cleared of furniture. The unseen and unpublished poem, Dear Jake, was found amongst some other very rarely seen poems sent to Betty by Larkin in 1976. The poem reveals Betty as an important late muse in Larkin's life.

Mark Bell, Arts Commissioning Editor for the BBC, commented: "I am really proud that the 25th anniversary of Larkin's death will be marked, as part of the BBC's commitment to literature, by BBC Yorkshire's Larkin film. Broadcasting original arts programmes in this way, uncovering important works from a national literary treasure, is absolutely what the BBC is here to do."

The new poem has never been seen by anyone but Betty and Larkin before. Former poet laureate and Larkin biographer Sir Andrew Motion described it as "a wonderful discovery".

He says: "This poem is a complete revelation to me, I didn't know it existed. I had no knowledge of it at all. It's completely new, so that's rather amazing and wonderful."

Larkin expert Professor James Booth from Hull University, who is also the editor of About Larkin the journal of the Larkin Society, confirms in the programme that the poem is "quite a find".

He says: "What we have here is another poem in the sequence of poems written to Betty, where she appears to him, in my view, as a muse of vitality and longevity, with a genuine emotional kick. This is quite a find."

Betty told Larkin she would never reveal herself or her story to the world but now, after 25 years, she's prepared to speak publicly to the BBC for the first time about her relationship and the man she knew probably better than anyone else.

Philip Larkin And The Third Woman broadcast on BBC One in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Sunday 5 December at 6pm, and on BBC Four nationally on Tuesday 7 December at 8pm.


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