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Suggested Reading: Writings by Philip Larkin

For those interested in what poets have to say about poetry, and in particular, what the modern English poet, Philip Larkin, had to say about the craft of writing poetry, then I would recommend Philip Larkin: Further Requirements, edited by Anthony Thwaite. The book, first published in 2001, is a collection of statements by Philip Larkin, interviews, radio broadcasts, and his reviews of the poetry and novels of other writers. I found the first part of the book of particular interest, where Larkin explains his ideas about writing poetry, and his views of other poets including D. H. Lawrence, Hardy, Yeats and Eliot. In interviews, he talks about what lay behind the writing of some of his more well known poems such as "Church Going," "High Windows," and "The Whitsun Weddings." Larkin wrote poetry for the same reason that many poets write: to give expression to a need. "You write a poem because it's something you've got to get done, not because its a philosophy of life." Larkin has said, "depression is to me as daffodils were to Wordsworth." Emotion, for Larkin, is the driving force of poetry, though the intellect is involved in the shaping of the poem. He had little interest in poetry which concerned itself with "culture in the abstract," a category in which he placed Eliot and Pound. Larkin believed that the poet's task is to move our feelings by showing his own, not to strut his learning. Larkin never claimed to fully understand how or why he writes poetry, and felt that delving too much into the process could be detrimental. Larkin stated his purpose in writing simply: the poet notices something beautiful, or sad, or significant, and tries to put that experience into words that will bring to life that same experience in the reader--so that the reader says to him or herself: "Yes, I know what you mean, life is like that."

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