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Philip Larkin

(1922—1985) poet, writer, and librarian


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(1922–1985),

poet and novelist. From 1943 he worked in various libraries before becoming librarian of the Brynmor Jones Library in Hull. Larkin's early poems appeared in an anthology, Poetry from Oxford in Wartime (1944), and a collection, The North Ship (1945), much influenced by Yeats. He then published Jill (1946), set in wartime Oxford, a novel which describes the undergraduate career of John Kemp, a working‐class boy from Lancashire; ‘Jill’ is the fantasy sister he creates, who is transformed into a teasing reality. A second novel, A Girl in Winter (1947), relates a day in the life of refugee librarian Katherine Lind, working in a drab English provincial town. Larkin's own poetic voice became distinct in The Less Deceived (1955), where the colloquial bravura of a poem like ‘Toads’ is offset by the half‐tones and somewhat bitter lyricism of other pieces; his name was at this time associated with the Movement, and his work appeared in New Lines (1956). The Whitsun Weddings (1964) adds a range of melancholy urban and suburban provincial landscapes. Many of the poems in High Windows (1974), notably ‘The Old Fools’, show a preoccupation with death and transience. Throughout his work, the adaptation of contemporary speech rhythms and vocabulary to an unobtrusive metrical elegance is highly distinctive. Larkin edited The Oxford Book of Twentieth‐Century English Verse (1973). A volume of essays, Required Writing, was published in 1983. See Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life (1993).

Subjects: Literature.


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