When Philip Larkin’s High Windows first appeared, Kingsley Amis spoke for a large and loyal readership when he wrote: ‘Larkin’s admirers need only be told that he is as good as ever here, if not slightly better’.
Like Betjeman and Hardy, Larkin is a poet who can move a large audience – to laughter and tears – without betraying the highest artistic standards.
When reading Philip Larkin’s poems during my A-levels I never properly appreciated his poems, which is perhaps to be expected at such an age. Now approaching his work with more life – and reading – experience there is something about his writing that makes it both highly pleasurable and challenging to read.
High Windows deals in some strong stuff; death, failure, and aging are constant (and looming) motifs threaded throughout the book. It’s a sobering composition but utterly compelling which drove me on to read and reread each poem multiple times.
There is a lot of pleasant imagery also, to contrast with the uncomfortable themes which at the same time amplifies them. A real feeling of nostalgia bursts forth, the heart-warming and traditional (villages, seaside memories etc.), this is shot through with jarring images of decay and threats of hell. Larkin does enough to keep the reader off balance whilst examining the reality of life. Continue reading “High Windows – Philip Larkin”