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Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Letter To Philip Larkin

Written at Write Night, 15 Queen Street, Colchester on Monday 10 September 2012. A writing exercise, taking a newspaper article as the inspiration. Details of the article are in the text. Mostly unedited but I have corrected it in places to at least make it readable (I hope!).....

Dear Mr Larkin

In 1992 I was given as a present your collected poems by a friend, for a particular event the nature of which I will not bore you with the details of. Suffice to say I still have said copy and often dip in. In fact, to 'big myself up a bit' (a phrase that I am sure would have caused much consternation from yourself, jolly chap that we all know and love you for), I read out to a live audience recently your wonderful poem 'Ignorance'.  It's a particular favourite of mine as it captures something quite meaningful, and it suited the moment as it is fairly short.

Anyway, to get to the point of this letter, I was interested to read recently (Saturday Guardian, 08.09.12, Travel Section, Poet's Corner by David Mark) that in your hometown of Hull, a city once described as 'On its arse' by the author of said piece, there is now a Larkin Trail, a walk around 25 locations marked by wall plaques, in the footsteps of your good self.

I was also interested to read that locally (in Hull) you are known as, and I quote, a 'grumpy bugger who looked like Eric Morecambe'.

I've never read Andrew Motions biography of you, far too long for me and full of information I have no wish to know, but on reading your poetry I have to agree with the above comment, even though I have never met you. I must say though that, in case the above comment on the comment about you being a grumpy bugger causes any offence, that I like that about you. It means you felt free to say what you meant and not pander to social niceties or, as we have today, political correctness. Hitler may have lost the war but I feel certain that controlling (or attempting to control) what people say and write would have been high on his to do list on attaining world domination and would probably have provided food for some words of your own.

Even though, as I have said already, I admire and even love some of your poems, I cannot think of anything more pretentious than spending time and money walking around Hull staring at wall plaques marking locations where you either lived or worked or wrote or even, as you wrote about quite a lot, fucked, although that would probably interest me more than anything else, if I am honest.

There is even a bronze statue of you at Paragon Station which the locals say looks like Eric Morecambe. And it's true that you do. And I would imagine that more people know who Eric Morecambe is than have heard of you which is a shame because, even though I loved Eric Morecambe and grew up watching him and little Ern the big difference was, and to me still is, that you wrote all of your own words and they were, and still are, in all the right places.

But best of all, for me, is that engraved on the plinth of your statue, the one at Paragon Station that looks like Eric Morecambe, are the words 'That Whitsun, I was late getting away', the opening line to, in my opinion, your best poem of all, The Whitsun Weddings.

I have carried it with me many times and read it if I ever have the pleasure of going on a train journey myself. It helps create a sense of atmosphere and, this is the best bit, I just really like it and any excuse (not that one is needed) to read it is fine by me.

So to start to bring my pathetic attempt at admiration to an end I would like to say that, ever since I was introduced to This Be The Verse many years ago now I have been, and still am (and I'm sure you would turn in your grave to hear this) a fan. And at times a grumpy bugger as well. Of course I agree with the opening line of the above named poem. I was indeed fucked up by my Mum and Dad. They never meant to but they did. And by then (my introduction to the poem) it was too late for me to take the advice you gave in the closing line as I already had my own two children, much to your chagrin but for which I make absolutely no apologies, as I love them very much and they me, even though I am sure I have done some fucking up of my own.

So finally dear Philip, I hope you don't mind me calling you Philip although I suspect you would prefer Mr Larkin, I want to end by saying that even though I am a fan I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of coming to Hull and walking the Larkin Trail but I will continue to read, with much pleasure, my copy of your collected poems and also writing the odd (sometimes very odd) one or two myself.

Yours etc