A reading of Larkin’s classic poem
‘High Windows’, the title poem of Philip Larkin’s fourth and final major poetry collection, is one of his most famous. The poem examines the new permissive society that flowered during the 1960s. Before proceeding to our analysis of ‘High Windows’, you can remind yourself of this poem (or discover it for the first time – a real treat) here.
Completed in February 1967, ‘High Windows’ was one of several poems which Larkin wrote around this time – during the so-called Summer of Love – which analyse the poet’s own middle-aged attitudes to the younger generation and the changing attitudes to sex. ‘Annus Mirabilis’ was written just a few months later, and ‘Sad Steps’, completed the following April, might also be partnered with ‘High Windows’ in this regard. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of Larkin’s amphibious sequel
‘Toads’, Philip Larkin’s celebrated analysis of the realities of everyday workaday drudgery versus a life of freedom and unemployment, appeared in his 1955 collection The Less Deceived. In 1962, he was inspired to return to the same subject – and the same metaphor – for a follow-up poem, ‘Toads Revisited’, which we’re going to subject to a bit of Interesting Literature-style close reading in this post. You can read ‘Toads Revisited’ here.
Larkin once observed that ‘Deprivation is to me what daffodils were to Wordsworth’, and the title of Larkin’s poem subtly echoes, but also parodies, such Wordsworthian titles as ‘Yarrow Revisited’. ‘Toads Revisited’ carries a somewhat less glamorous edge: indeed, the toad was seized upon by the poet Marianne Moore as a metaphor for the ugliness that good poetry needs to contain. ‘Imaginary gardens with real toads in them’ was her assessment of poetry: the garden can be as beautiful as you like, but it must have the taint of grim reality about it. ‘Toads’ are unpoetic enough; to revisit them seems like wilful subversion. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a short Larkin poem
‘Take One Home for the Kiddies’ first appeared in Larkin’s third poetry collection, The Whitsun Weddings, in 1964. Like a number of Larkin’s poems – see ‘First Sight’, ‘The Mower’, and ‘Myxomatosis’ for three other notable examples – the poem is about animals, and specifically about the callousness with which humans sometimes act towards pets. You can read ‘Take One Home for the Kiddies’ here, before proceeding to our analysis below.
Start with the title, as so often in poetry (especially Larkin’s poetry, with their carefully chosen titles). ‘Take One Home for the Kiddies’ sounds like a slogan or tagline adorning a poster or other advertisement outside a pet shop: the advert addresses itself to the parents (with the cutesy and playful ‘kiddies’ carrying a twang of American commercialism, ‘kids’ having originated in the US as a slang term for children), but the poem itself introduces the children’s voices as they, in turn, address their parents. Read the rest of this entry