Collected Poems

by Philip Larkin

Paperback, 1993






Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1993), Edition: Reprint, 358 pages


Presents the complete poems of English poet Philip Larkin, including his four previously-published collections, as well as uncollected poems, written between 1940 and 1984.

Media reviews

New Yorker
Larkin had the gift of reuniting poetry at its most artful with ordinary speech at its most unstudied – at its least literary. Though a scholar to the roots, he was not being perverse when he posed as a simple man. He thought that art should be self-sufficient. He was disturbed by the way literary studies had crowded out literature. But none of this means that he was simplistic. Though superficially a reactionary crusader against modernism, a sort of latter-day, one-man Council of Trent, he knew exactly when to leave something unexplained.

User reviews

LibraryThing member whitsunweddings
True story: I was once on a train that stopped at what I thought was Hull (but actually turned out to be Doncaster, because wow, I suck) and this very good looking young man got on and we gave each other the ~eye. Being the dithering ditherer that I am, I sent my friend the following text:
"V. fit young man on train. Potential opening gambit: "Hello, are you excited to be in the land of Philip Larkin?" I am sure this will lead to mucho canoodling."
To which my friend responded:
"But what if he doesn't like yr Larkin?"
My adour was instantly cooled by the (quite likely) prospect, not unlike Colin Firth jumping into a pond. I did not have a brief and tragic romance with the young man, nor did I even bother talking to him. I put on my headphones and listened to early Manic Street Preachers albums while gazing at the English countryside. Moodily.
This is what Philip Larkin does to you. He gets inside your head and COCKBLOCKS YOU FROM THE GRAVE. He makes you take his poems as usernames, and then tempts you to consider visiting Hull which, might I remind you, has been voted the shittest town in Britain on more than one occassion!
You should definitely read this collection... unless you want to have sex or be happy ever again, but who needs that?
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LibraryThing member fieldnotes
Because the section of Larkin's "Early Poems" makes the final third of this collection a rather unrewarding slog, "Collected Poems" sat on my "currently reading" shelf for nearly a year. Then I decided that I didn't need to read every one of the poems that Larkin himself downplayed and shuffled from the spotlight in order to consider this book "read." I read it, from page 3 to page 221 and now and then, in disappointed little moments, I read bits of the final hundred pages.

Before I try describing Larkin's poetry and try understanding why I like him, let me devote a few sentences to people with less time. Read: "Solar;" "The Building;" "The Old Fools;" and "Aubade." These are longer poems, crafted around Larkin's favorite themes in some of his best language. They are sharp, entertaining, acidic and reduced. If you don't enjoy them, I don't think you should bother with Larkin's shorter, less thoughtful (and often mopier) pieces. After these, if you still have a taste, try reading "If, My Darling;" "At thirty-one, when some are rich;" "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album" and "Dockery and Son." From there, I think it is all downhill--not far and not horribly; but downhill nonetheless.

Often, Larkin's poems proceed in relatively normal narrative English only to reach their justification in well-condensed phrases that seem to resonate with existential despair: "stumbling up the breathless stair/ To burst into fulfillment's desolate attic." "sat through days of thin continuous dreaming;" or, of Religion, "That vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ Created to pretend we never die."

He has a knack for reducing things, for articulating the non-participant's, curmudgeonly perspective, complete with well-deployed informal profanity. He atomizes adornment, ceremony and cheerfulness, holding them by the tips of his fingers, as if they reek. It entertains me that he describes three married couples as follows: "Adder-faced singularity/ Espouses a nailed-up childhood,/ Skin-disease pardons/ Soft horror of living,/ A gabble is forgiven/ By chronic solitude." It entertains me because it is typical of him to reduce people to their worst, and typical that he goes on to rob these unions of their romance by depicting them all "tarnish[ing] at quiet anchor."

In Larkin's poetry, context will always get you in the end. Senility beckons, death looms, promises are already breaking and every man outmaneuvers himself in an effort to avoid the fear of all that is failed and meaningless.Still, it's good fun. He's one of the most winning grouches I remember reading and was probably an superior drunk.
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LibraryThing member biblionic
grumpy old right-wing bastard that he was, he wrote well. and i must admit i relate to the grumpiness. aubade is brilliant. and i like the faber cover (these things matter!).
LibraryThing member Bat
Brilliant, brilliant Larkin; very few writers' inner lives live on in such splendid detail through their poetry as this.
LibraryThing member dawnpen
Oh Philip Larkin. I read your aubades and I do like them or at least I did. But you are kind of a smartass, in this British way, as to ruin something about the poem by making it hard. At least that's what I remember. I might be too entrenched in the Black Mountains to appreciate the office humor of Larkin. Sorry fella. You get 3 stars.… (more)
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
This Be The Verse - Happy Father's Day!

I feel like a liar whenever I mark down a good book of poetry as 'read'. You don't read it straight through, and you don't ever finish it. With poetry (and memorable fiction) you go back and reference the good bits infrequently. Larkin's joining that group, no question.

So what if the man is a shitheel? What he created will endure, beautiful and decayed as it is.
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LibraryThing member stephenmurphy
hated him until I read him.

'The trees are coming into leafg
Like something almost being said ...'

You said it Phil.
LibraryThing member gregtmills
Larkin's poetry is laser precise: he writes fine, delibrate phrases with strict rhythm, never indulging in broad ambiguity. He writes what he means, usually meditations on his being a misfit. He's grumpy, regretful, selfish, stubborn and prone to pursuits of the flesh. He's also completely owns up to all his faults and writes these trim, funny little confessionals, to the benefit of anyone who speaks English and reads poetry.… (more)
LibraryThing member kgib
If you are feeling curmudgeonly or bitter, there are some good poems here for that. (Other kinds, too).
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I really liked these poems, which I found to be deceptively simple.
LibraryThing member Jennifertapir
Re-reading these I still think he is one of the really great poets of the 20th century - although maybe only of a few poems rather than his whole compass of work.


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