Statue of Poet Philip Larkin Placed on Secret Racism Reviews List

An article in The Telegraph says that the statue of the poet Philip Larkin in Hull has been placed on a secret racism review’s list following Black Lives Matter protests.

In his letters, Larkin made racist comments, which has caused the poet’s statue to be placed on the review list.

The article states that emails from those employed by the Council have argued that the statue should stay, and I would be astounded if Larkin is removed from public view.

In my view, a poet’s (or any other literary person’s views) should not disqualify them from being honoured by a statue. It is the quality of a poet’s work on which they should be judged. One may condemn the opinions of an individual (I do not agree with Larkin’s views on race), whilst celebrating their literary greatness.

Amongst my favourite Larkin poems, are Aubade and Ambulances. His description in the former poem of why so many people fear death is masterful and it is a poem to which I often return.

To read the article, (which is behind a paywall) please follow this link, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/03/06/philip-larkin-statue-placed-secret-racism-reviews-list-following/.

8 thoughts on “Statue of Poet Philip Larkin Placed on Secret Racism Reviews List

  1. floridaborne

    This is happening world-wide. Those who re-imagine history can recreate it in their own image, and sculpture the “truth” into anything the people in power want it to be.

    Were you aware that people were kidnapped from Europe and sent into slavery in the middle east? This was in the 17th and 18th century, at the same time there was slavery in the USA.

    Erasing history is a form of control. Look at the way Al-Qaeda (extremists Islam) tore down statues and erased evidence of other religions in the countries it took over. There were Buddhist statues in Afghanistan that have been erased from history.

    That is but one example. To me, destroying the history of another civilization is the worst expression of discrimination.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Yes I was aware that Europeans have also been sold into slavery. This goes back further than the 17th century, as Viking raiders would come to Britain and take people from coastal communities as slaves. Slavery also existed in ancient Greece and Rome, as it did in most (I think all) civilisations.

      Islamic State has also destroyed monuments/statues, for example in Iraq. This was recently mentioned during the Pope’s visit to that country.

      As regards those in power. They certainly may topple statues. However it may also be a minority of people who deface or topple statues. For example in Great Britain a protester (I would say thug) painted “Churchill was a racist” on his statue.

      You are right that we have to deal with history, warts and all.

      Kevin

      Reply
  2. V.M.Sang

    I believe we should judge a person by the thoughts and standards of their own times, not our own. If people are taught something, or it’s considered to be ‘common knowledge’, only a very few brave, intelligent and thoughtful people will reject it. And they will probably be ridiculed at best.
    If society genuinely believes it’s all right to enslave others, can we, in all fairness, say what terrible people they were?
    In Larkin’s time, many, or perhaps most, people were racist. It wasn’t something to be frowned upon. We should celebrate his writing not his views.
    This wiping out of things we don’t like about the past is very similar to George Orwell’s 1984, where history was constantly changed.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      I agree with you completely that we should judge people in the context of their own time and not according to the standards of our own. There is an interesting article about the statue of Henry Dundas (who was involved in the slave trade and was a Scottish politician). Rather than removing the statue there is a debate about putting a plaque on the monument to explain the context behind the statue, https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/people/edinburgh-professor-renews-call-reword-history-statue-memorialising-man-who-prolonged-slave-trade-2876774. Of course historians will argue (as they are doing) about what, exactly should go on the plaque. But putting people in their historical context is a far more intelligent way of dealing with controversial figures, than defacing or demolishing statues. Thanks for your comments, Vivienne. Kevin

      Reply

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