Larkin Revisited

I am currently listening to Larkin Revisited on BBC Radio 4. The BBC’s website describes the 10 part series as follows:
“Across ten programmes and ten Philip Larkin poems, Simon Armitage, the poet laureate, finds out what happens when he revisits and unpicks Larkin’s work”.

I am a fan of Larkin’s poetry and I’m enjoying listening to Armitage discuss the poet’s work.

In the latest episode, which was broadcast on Wednesday 10 August, the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage discusses Larkin’s poem Talking in Bed. As with much of Larkin’s poetry Talking in Bed offers a world weary view of love. Anyone looking for a poem about ever lasting romance, flowers and chocolates will be sadly disappointed!

In the latest programme Armitage discusses Talking in Bed with a famous group of performing poets, one of whom expresses admiration for Larkin’s work but states that the group would probably not give a platform to the poet (where he still living) due to his views on race and the working class. (Larkin in his private letters wrote disparagingly of both).

I have always been of the view that one should (so far as is possible) separate the poet from his or her work. I am, therefore not a supporter of no platforming poets or other writers. No platforming leads to an illiberal and intolerant situation in which only those who hold “acceptable” or “correct” views are allowed to perform. Furthermore it has the potential to stifle creativity.

Interestingly the advocate of no platforming admitted that where Talking in Bed to have been written by a poet other than Philip Larkin she would have no problem in allowing the poet to perform. This smacks of Alice in Wonderland logic to me.

You can listen to Larkin Revisited on the BBC’s website here, or on BBC Radio 4. In order to listen to previous episodes you will need to have an account with the BBC’s Iplayer.


8 thoughts on “Larkin Revisited

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thanks for your interesting comment, Liz.
      It is interesting how the definition of liberal (with a capital and a small l) has changed. Traditional liberals advocated for individual liberty (for example J. S. Mill’s “On Liberty”, and would have found the concept of “no platforming” deeply sinister. Yet there is, as you say a breed of individuals who claim the liberal mantle yet advocate for the suppression of free speech. William Gladstone and other liberals will be turning in their graves.

      As regards Conservatives. Whilst some Conservatives advocate for book banning, I think this is more common in the USA than it is here in the UK, although there are, of course illiberal Conservatives here.

      There is, I believe a difference concerning the way in which the terms Conservative and Liberal are often employed in the USA and the UK.

      Best wishes. Kevin

      1. Liz Gauffreau

        I can’t help but remember listening to a college lecture about how the far ends of the political left and the political right continuum (the extremists, in other words) meet and become indistiguishable from each other.

    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      Your lecturer was, I believe correct when they said that, Liz. It was the National Socialist German Worker’s Party after all – a fusion of the extremes of far-left and far-right.

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      I’m glad you find it interesting, Michael. Larkin is, I think one of the easier poets to understand. Having said that, there are (as with many deceptively simple compositions) hidden depths to be explored in his poetry. Happy reading!


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