I had never read anything by Larkin before I picked this collection up, and I confess myself pleasantly surprised; though there was a thread of melancholy running throughout, it was never heavy-handed enough to become depressing. Each poem was deep and many-layered, yet extremely accessible. If you’re interested, here are my recommendations:
- MCMXIV – a very poignant portrayal of a blissfully innocent England on the eve of the First World War.
- The Whitsun Weddings – the titular poem captures one seemingly unimportant moment in time beautifully.
- Love Songs in Age – an understated yet pitch-perfect depiction of ageing and grief that uses the motif of old records.
- Mr Bleaney – I like the way this poem effortlessly depicts the characters of two men who inhabit one room at different times.
- First Sight – I appreciate the sentiment behind this poem, which implies that there is always something better, even if you can’t see it at first.
- Afternoons – a lovely but melancholy interpretation of the disillusionment felt by many young mothers of Larkin’s era.
- Take One Home for the Kiddies – this poem is grimly sassy and turns very dark, very quickly.