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O what Larks


I haven’t done a “blog” for some time, partly out of family busy-ness (baby-sitting grandchildren) but mainly out of a sense of boredom with the whole business of poetry and self-promotion. Meanwhile I have been dipping into Larkin’s “Letters to Monica” edited by Anthony Thwaite; perhaps Larkin’s inimitable sense of ennui (“What’s the point?”) has crept into my thinking? Not to say that the letters are not hugely enjoyable. They are. A much more roundedly compassionate and amusing man emerges from them than I had supposed – far from the right wing bigot and misogynist of legend. But he is decidedly waspish about the literary world, its feuding, constant self-advertisement, petty jealousies… Mainly of course, Larkin is unrelentingly honest about himself, ceaselessly probing for the roots of his unhappiness, his inability to form “proper relationships” (for instance, with Monica). And where does that intense dislike of “home”, family and children come from – surely from memories of his own stifled childhood? I do love Larkin’s poems…but to follow his negativity, however honest, to its conclusions is probably too dangerously anti-life for most of us?  “First boredom and then fear”  That way lies madness, n’est ce pas? So I turn my thoughts out of the window to where Bridgnorth’s annual rowing regatta is taking place: garbled loudspeaker announcements about the various complicated heats; brief excited commentaries as the boats, oars swinging, come flashing round the bend; polite clapping from the crowd together with rude shouted comments from “mates”; also sunlight, birdsong, crowds of promenaders eating chips with plastic forks out of polystyrene cartons; the drift of over-amplified Abba in between the races; a couple (drunk already?) either fighting or “heavy petting” in the shadows behind the boathouse; a huge Asian family, beautifully dressed, parading in descending height order past these scenes of disorder…. all that vulgar noisy real life that, sadly, Larkin would probably have despised…and longed to join in?

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