Thursday, August 30, 2007

Philip Larkin's biography

I'm reading Andrew Motion's 500 page biography of Philip Larkin, which might sound like the most boring prospect imaginable, but it's oddly compulsive. Almost straight away we are given a strong sense of a Larkin quite different from received notions, and nearly loveable. His letter-writing style is disarmingly passionate, more demonic than demotic, yet quite funny, like an alcoholic Adrian Mole, and it is liberally punctuated with words such as 'cunting'.

We never quite shake our preconceptions about the old goat, however, which means that some passages are far more shocking then they would appear in other life stories. Did Motion invent the secret lesbian porn novels that Larkin wrote in his early twenties? He shamelessly picks out all the naughty bits for our pleasure.

It is interesting to get a broader picture of a writer and his influences, pints of lager aside. His heroes are all 'Celtic' or English, all men, relatively modern, each one dabbing him in another direction, from Auden to Thomas, from Thomas to Yeats, until he finally shores up with Hardy.

I'm already about a third of the way through. It's encouraging that he is lost and depressed and working in a shitty job, and ego-centric and self-loathing and all the rest of it. Maybe he'll be one of my heroes. Sobering thought.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Morning Paper

I wished for a monogrammed handkerchief
a parasol and a big dress. I wished
I had seen Tennessee for the first time
without the spaces. Without the clearings.
Anywhere swept around is a theme park.
Space is a theme park. It is the shape of
a mold of the earth and the moon because
we've landed on the moon. If we pretend
to leave it all behind us and ignore
park rangers, police search operations,
we would have no surfaces for breakfast
or surfaces for dusting or sweeping.
Unless we took a broom to the forest
or a knife. These animals are hoodlums.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wallace Stevens

I've been looking at Wallace Stevens poems. I would like to respond to this one, as it features Tennessee:

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.