P. 1
Derek Spooner, Reflections on the Place of Larkin

Derek Spooner, Reflections on the Place of Larkin

|Views: 31|Likes:
Published by Caimito de Guayabal

More info:

Published by: Caimito de Guayabal on Jul 12, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Reflections on the Place of Larkin Author(s): Derek Spooner Reviewed work(s): Source: Area, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp.

209-216 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20004059 . Accessed: 26/04/2012 06:36
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Blackwell Publishing and The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Area.


Sligo is emphatically Yeats country. and signposted tours to Institute of British Geographers) 2000 . to the ISSN 0004-0894 (? Royal Geographical Society (with The promotion of particular localities under such labels as Catherine Cookson Country or Bronte Country (Pocock 1987.2. with Hambleton Council bidding for money from the Millennium Commission. either as Hull or as provincial mid-century England. Mordor and the Lord of the Rings) to the conversion of writers' homes to museums and shrines (think of the Bronte parsonage at Haworth. with boat trips to view the Lake Isle of Innisfree. broadening the concept of an imagined landscape. North Yorkshire for example is now 'Herriot country'. describing itself as a 'companion to hundreds of literary landscapes. Sometimes such adop tions can be quite subtle-the use of Tennyson's poetry to promote the now defunct borough of Glanford showed particular imagination. Squire 1993). University of Hull. This paper examines Larkin's sense of place and explores his relationship with Hull and its environs. Summary The close association of the poet Larkin with the city of Hull has induced references to Larkinland. In drawing on his own personal landscapes. 1992) by local tourist offices and development departments. with lines from the Lady of Shallot (sic) set against a picture of a Lincolnshire wold (though it is not at all clear that Tennyson was thinking of North Lincolnshire when he wrote the Lady of Shalott. but also links to the interpretation of Larkin as the poet of provincial England. The trend to commercial exploitation has also extended beyond canonical literature to television and film drama (sometimes based on popular novels). 'Here' paints an evocative picture of Hull in the 1950s.uk Revised manuscript received 5 July 1999. and it is a pity that they didn't check the spelling). Introduction: exploitingliterary heritage In recent years there has been a growth of interest in literary heritage. unspoilt landscape of the past connected with the English countryside and some Golden Age of innocent childhood (Williams 1973. The promotion and exploitation of literary heritage is most commonly associated with novels and novelists. Inevitably.J. The Atlas of Literature. Across the border in the Republic. The pleasure isoften linked to a nostalgia for the greener. For the inhabitant of Hull. the landscapes and journeys immortalized in theirwork. has a slender basis. and our perception of a particular landscape may be shaped by the writer's. South County Derry is now marketed as Heaney country and has its Heaney Trail. However.Spooner@geo. According to Margaret Drabble (1979): 'every writer's work is a record both of himself (sic) and of the age inwhich he lives.Area (2000) 32. Grasmere is overrun with visitors to Wordsworth's Dove Cottage. sites and shrines'. edited by Malcolm Bradbury (1996). exemplifies the trend. Hull. some poems have added value. Larkinland.ac.hull. HU6 7RX E-mail D. to establish 'the World of James Herriot' in Thirsk. though commercial exploitation of this concept is very limited. Seeing landscape through the eyes of a particular writer is a source of pleasure. 209-216 Reflections Department on the place Derek Spooner of Larkin of Geography. This ranges from the offering of literary tours (there is for example a Tolkien Trail in Kings Heath and Ladywood in Birmingham to see the locations that may have inspired a young JRR to write of Gondor. which awards National Lottery funds to projects to mark the Millennium. or of Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm in the Lake District). In Northern Ireland. as well as of the particular places he describes'. Larkin intermittently involves the reader in the pleasure of recognition. but poets are not immune. the places writers came from. local or regional literary heritage is increasingly marketed as a tourist attraction and as a vehicle for local economic development.

Seamus Heaney (1982.3 the opening verse of which has recently been inscribed on a plaque on Coventry railway station. that Philip Larkin is for good or ill the effective unofficial laureate of post-1945 England'. Like several other great writers (Hardy. Sean O'Brien and Andrew Motion (who became Poet Laureate in 1999).4 Dunn and Motion were both colleagues of Larkin at Hull University.135) has said that Larkin's poems should be re-titled 'Englanders'. Lissadell . Indeed his luminous presence may have had something to do with the significant development of the cluster of Hull poets. of course. Thus the Rough Guide entry for Hull begins with a reference to Larkin as the 'city's most famous adopted son' and a quotation from Larkin about the flatness of Hull. 1998). physical or otherwise' and which is suited to the 'poet's cur mudgeonly temperament' (Rough Guide. while Davie (1973.210 Spooner provincial places).. The identification of Shrop shire as 'Housman's country' is obvious (even though AE Housman came from Worcestershire and wrote The Shropshire Lad in London). and emphasizes the importance of situating any analysis 'within an understanding of particular historical and geographical contexts' (Kong and Tay 1998). Dooney. it is difficult to discern any significant exploitation of this concept inHull..). regional. focusing upon the sense of place conveyed in his poetry... The first part of the analysis places associated with the Yeats canon (Ben Bulben. though the publication of a Larkin trail in Jean Hartley's Philip Larkin's Hull and East Yorkshire (1995) was a gentle nudge in that direction. enhancing our awareness of this city. Itmay contribute to our picture of the larger place 'provincial England' in a particular phase in its post-war development. personality and identity of regions (Kong and Tay 1998). p. port city on England's eastern seaboard that he is most commonly associated (even as 'the hermit of Hull' (Bennett 1994)). In this paper Iexplore the extent towhich Hull can be identified as Larkinland. freestanding. As Kong and Tay (1998) have recently noted. This paper is informed by. However. geographers have adopted a number of different approaches to the relationship between geography and literature-humanistic. p. The regional approach has been developed by those geographers who have turned to the regional novel to discover the character. poetry can also provide opportunities of this nature. and structural. IRemember (1954). all three approaches. with the poet's level voice and reclusive nature portrayed as matching the flatness and isolation of the city. Dickens). Leicester and Belfast (interestingly all . although the word 'Larkinland'"has appeared in the press. However. though his personal reputation was seriously tarnished by rev elations in his biography (Motion 1993) and edited letters (Thwaite 1992) of his intemperate views on race and other matters and his fondness for pornography. He also studied inOxford and worked in Shropshire. with its emphasis on the exploration of atmosphere. More recently Bradbury (1996) has discussed Larkin's contribution to scenes from provincial life. but it is with Hull that he has become identified. The structural approach sees the author as the product of a particular society. Looking for Larkinland Philip Larkin (1922-85) remains one of England's most eminent and best-loved poets. and attempts to blend. mean ing and symbols and on our personal response to place.64) concluded that 'there has been the widest agree ment . while Shakespeare-poet and playwright-has spawned a huge heritage industry at Stratford upon Avon. the predominant sense of place conveyed is not specific to any locality.2 Larkinwas. reflecting and revealing its ideology and values. and was born inCoventry ('not the place's fault') poeti cally recalled in IRemember. is particu larly relevant to the poetic portrayal of place. initiallyan outsider to Hull. leading to the launch of an image enhancement campaign-without some allusion to Larkin or his poetry. including the likes of Douglas Dunn. Yet there is rarely a media reference to the image of Hull-a problem that has seriously vexed the city authorities in recent years. as exemplified by the work of Relph (1976) and Seamon (1981). and argued that Larkin became famous as 'the poet of provincial Englishness'. 'a town which reaches few heights. This claim however may not bear too close a scrutiny. Larkin lived and worked in Kingston upon Hull (hereafter Hull) as University Librarian for the last 30 years of his life and it iswith thismedium-sized. The humanistic approach. To what extent was Larkin responding to Hull as a locale? How does Larkin talk to the reader about place? Iargue that a handful of Larkin's poems speak to the reader very directly about Hull and its immediate environs. in a modest first step by that locality to promote him as a Coventrian (followed by the launch of a LarkinCity Centre Trail). his literary reputation seems likely to survive our knowledge of his personal flaws.

The city of Hull in fact never appears by is existential with significances'. of the product. growing old. I Remember). Relph anywhereness. perhaps consciously seeking to universal Philip Larkin saw himself as engaged in his poetry in recreating the familiar. and indeed his dislike for ize the poems. they also may give a sense of alienation. However. 75). personal landscapes are important. nor does the riverHumber (Larkin leaves this outsideness. but they can never become (1961).5 In an interview with Paris Review in 1982 he stated that he personal response to place. yet is full specificity. happens anywhere' is an oft-quoted Larkin line everyday landscape. shows a preference for withholding specific place references. In a letter to Patsy Murphy in 1958. the hotel of this name burned down in 1990 and has re-opened as the Quality Royal underlie people's relationships with their environ ment. where the individual feels separate from to Douglas Dunn (see below) and to Stevie Smith 'No wonder/the in a silken place and alienated from a meaningless environ river Humber/lies ment.6 But things seen or experienced may bear some relation situated within a broader historical and geographical to particular places. Itcan thus Night at the Royal Station Hotel (1966) also fixes it in serve as a means to penetrate the complexities that space and time. an individual becomes rooted in a place as he/she cantata celebrating the building of the Humber Road Bridge (and arguably one of his less successful develops relationships with it-and this 'rootedness' relates not only to a geographical landscape but also poems). Later sections of the paper return to the wrote regional approach which characterized an earlier memorably as possible' (Larkin1983.Reflections on the place of Larkin 21 1 draws upon humanistic ideas to explore Larkin's become mythical (and probably exaggerated). while the final ops an idea he expressed many years earlier: 'I discussion of Larkin as poet of provincial England is to preserve things I have seen/thought/felt'. Most of his poems are in his words. Yet some remain identifiably rooted in local experiences. the opposite name. while the title of another poem. (Thwaite 1992). about Larkin's personal landscapes 'enhancing the everyday' (Brett 1988)-the ordinary For all of us. Such sentiments appear to support Relph (1976). Literature provides a source of new insights Hotel. familiar and ordinary places that make up our relationships. and some sort of (from I Remember. the last a commissioned colours the present place (Seamon 1981). 'Nothing. meet' in The Whitsun Weddings identifies the begin Poetry (and other writing) explores the meanings that places have and through the gift of imagination ning of the poem's journey unmistakably by the river and the writer's filtered perception add to the enjoy Humber. the difficulties of personal local. Friday ment and awareness of our surroundings. and in particular to 'to describe recognizable experiences as Hull. the episodes of life and death. Hedon and Patrington'. of core is 'insideness'-the chief achievement degree to which a person belongs to and associates himself with place. of any environment is that it should be ignorable' although depending on who we are and where we come from. investigating the nature of place as an the argument of Porteous(1 997) that a sense of experience. like something. The Whitsun Weddings (1958) and Bridge complete insiders because their past permeates and for the Living (1975). Indeed one might argue that Larkin appears to and assists us to explore the experiential foundation be deliberately reticent about place names and of our world (Pocock 1981). It is true that the personal landscape of Larkin's terms the most profound sense of place existential insideness. an emotional three poems where locations are clearly fixed: 'Tall landscape (intimacy with individuals) and an intellec church towers parley airily audible. These provide us with a sense of rootedness and meaning. he wrote: 'the first thing Iask allegiance to a home territory or common ground. where 'a place is experienced without poetry isone that only intermittently betrays its place deliberate and self-conscious reflection. Newcomers to a place are existential outsiders slumber'). Bridge for the Living is the only one of these to a social landscape (in a community).7 There are clear references to the locality in only a small number of the 80 or so poems Larkin who may become insiders as they develop a constel wrote after moving to Hull in 1955./Howden and tual landscape (acquired knowledge and ideas) Beverley. though the refer ence to 'Where sky and Lincolnshire and water (Middleton 1981). travel and lack of curiosity about other places has . This devel write paper on this topic (Spooner 1992). especially Here lation of experiential ties. concluded that its essential experiential place is marginal to Larkin's oeuvre and that his is a sense of no-place. whose description becomes part context.

Loved Ones (1954): No Ihave never found The place where Icould say This ismy proper ground Here Ishall stay Ironically he was to spend most of the rest of his life Here.212 Spooner Larkin (1971) himself expressed some views on the significance of 'topographical and period back ground to a work of literature' in an essay on Betjeman. 1989). 'barge-crowded water'. because Betjeman tells been there andwhat Ifeel about them depends entirely on what he tellsme about them. But as Larkin points out: 'I know Brent. it stands alongside the working river still used by barges. and there are elements in the poem distinct to the city for example 'the slave museum'. The problem is the reader. Larkin and Hull Why did Ibring you to thisHull. But the poem is also a picture of any large town (at least in provincial. The reading of the poems may or may not therefore involve the reader in the pleasure of recognition (Watson. in Hull. against describes hospitals dawns/of days people will die on'. Larkin's imagination and skill with words heighten our awareness of our specific surround ings. Envoi. 'I can see one from here'-Hull Royal Infir mary was visible from the poet's attic flat in 32 Pearson Park. Thus Porteous (1997) has argued that 'here' to Larkin is also anywhere (and everywhere). where he as 'Lighted cliffs. one of the city's most famous sons. My argument here is that solving the references to topography is aided by experience of the place described. is much more explicit than Larkin's in its identification of places. Northolt and so on are in me so. I enjoyed The Shropshire Lad before Isaw Shropshire. 1986) It is perhaps debatable whether Larkin liked Hull. enhancing the enjoyment. but these readers can still enjoy a beautifully crafted description as well as more complex interpretations. Larkin claimed that poetry was about 'see ing things as they are'. Indeed a year before he moved to Hull Larkin professed a lack of identity with any particular place in the poem Places. To the initiated the picture of Hull and the Humber presented in a poem likeHere is unmistakable. named after William Wilberforce. And as a relative newcomer to the city. The crucialpoint is whether the readergets enough out of thework initially to make itworth his while solving the references to deepen the enjoyment'. In Here and The Whitsun Weddings the device of the train journey increases the sense of detachment. Larkin is a spectator.Given the relative obscurity of Hull (a recent study by Spooner et al (1995) found that the city suffered from being little known and the lack of a clear external image). it is clear that most readers will not have the benefit of familiarity or recognition. Thus The Building (1972) is both a poem about a hospital which can be enjoyed by anyone. His poems about itmight be described as detached. even while the poetry retains its universal appeal. Hull. the river Hull. the individual reader and the landscape or place itself. close to its confluence with the Humber. an element of 'outsideness' (if not alienation) is retained. and a brilliant evocation of 'the lucent comb' of Hull Royal Infirmary: every time Ipass the infirmary the lines of The Building are conjured inmy mind and indeed the lines of How (1970). Betjeman's poetry. We might compare Drabble's remark (1979) about once Housman's 'blue-remembered hills'-'at unmistakably Shropshire and unmistakably every where: an inner landscape of universal loss'. and now the focus of urban regeneration efforts. and when he describes places the style is sometimes almost documentary. This poem then adds. Wilberforce House in Hull is the slave museum. In his early days in Hull his letters (Thwaite 1992) tended to be derogatory about the city: . but I'venever Middlesex. our enjoyment of our home territory is enhanced.. The personal landscapes of Larkin's poetry can therefore be viewed in two ways. separated from the landscape by glass. estuarine England) in a particular period (the 1950s) which can be enjoyed by anyone. who may or may not have seen the land scapes on which Larkin has drawn. The poem thus has added value.Wembley.. The poems are littered with place names. Those of us who live in Hull (insiders) are thus in a sense privileged because of the bonus of recog nition. of course.. he expresses a sense of realism rather than emotional attachment. This rancid and unbeautiful surprise of damp and Englishness? (DouglasDunn. Literary text-the poems-lies somewhere between the writer.

but pervades.. 'here' or 'not here'. In 1979 he fact when Larkin wrote Here (1961). to Pamela ized Hull before modern motorway connections Kitson). the smell of the fish dock no longer for ?30. Here is descriptive of Kingston upon Hull in the This last feature seems to have become in time a 1950s and the 1 reason for liking the place.waiting for another to begin'. A letter to (i) Isolation (the place 'where only salesmen and Robert Conquest in 1968 contains a gripe about 'a relations come' (Here). has an end-of-the line sense of freedom. On the way to nowhere. As I have suggested in an earlier more detailed like that'. one arriving in and the other and more neutrally. 'isolate city'. (Spooner. And it did. Perhaps the of . said that meant some'. 'lonely northern daughter' (Bridge for the Living)). to Robert Conquest): poems however are period pieces-they evoke the Hull of 30 years ago or more (Spooner 1992). yet sufficiently on the edge about Hull is that the smuts-and there are plenty of it to have a different resonance'. the sharp said in an interview with The Observer (Larkin1983. were constructed and it began to re-image itself as the 'northern gateway to Europe'. Certainly by the 1970s he was embedded damage. has its own sudden elegancies. Both poems describe a train journey. 1992). left-wingballet. and 1970.' transition from outsider to insider had come close to completion. The statement is brief but sympathetic in to Richard and PatsyMurphy): tone-Hull is unpretentious. But he also seems to have become of one kind of life. are fishy across this feature anywhere else and Idon't like it. In attuned to the geographical landscape. Leicester) have even less 'tone' than the city he Bridge for the Living. a good swinge ing. carries a hidden implication that Hull (and some of these are echoed in TheWhitsun Weddings... (1 956.. an evocative picture of Hull and the Humber estuary is painted by 'Hull is like a backdrop for a ballet about industrialism Larkin in Here and The Whitsun Weddings. drifting around. I thought. There's not so much crap around as there would be in analysis of the portrait of Hull presented in Here London'. its economy stagnant. this poem speaks to at least four written for long-time lover Monica Jones in about recognizable themes in the local geography. to JudyEgerton): Loved or not.. to Patsy Murphy): fishmeal factory has been demolished.000'-just about the rightprice.. I've not come them. well.Reflections on the place of Larkin 213 Riding'. These crushing the naturalgoodness of men. The city is 'as 'Hullsmelt revoltingof fish thismorning: my secretary good a place to write in as any.' (1955. 'Smelt 'headline in the Daily Telegraph recently 'Hull insured the fishdock'. a protection from intrud 960s-'a terminate and fishy ers (Booth 1992). as Hull's fishing fleet has declined and the theywere talkingabout a ship' (1958. 'And Hull is an unpretentious place. Perhaps the former newcomer to smelling/Pastoral of ships up streets'. bloody rainy chilly afternoon in this arsehole of East 'I wish Icould thinkof just one nice thing to tell you about Hull-oh yes. it is 'Ihave come to the conclusion that the peculiar horror 'a city that is in the world.' (1957. Motion (1993) sug through friendships and liaisons a local emotional gests that Larkin had arrived in a large city 'at the end landscape. On the other hand Poem about Oxford. ItsOld Town and inner city docks were in in the University community. Larkin's last prose comments on Hull are con tained in the preface he wrote to A Rumoured City: New Poets from Hull (Dunn 1982). It appears that familiarity had bred both affection and contempt. It's in the middle of this lonely country Hull's revamped 'docklands'. and both convey eloquently to the reader that sense of remoteness that character 'Hull'sa difficultplace to drop inon' (1965. and had mapped out decay. Hull was still in the throes of reconstruction after horrendous war sider to insider (Relph 1976) and was becoming 'rooted'. it's very nice and flat for 955. If Larkin returned everywhere else. which have been and beyond the lonely country there's only the sea. Better in fact than itwas going to rain. I transformed since the mid-1980s. and snatches of other poems: studied in-'for while the old place hadn't much tone/Two others we know have got less'. as some today he would certainly find it hard to recognize body put it. toAnsell cycling: that'sabout the best Ican say' (1 and JudyEgerton): . populated by Hull was making the transition from existential out 'residents from raw estates'. departing from Hull. decline of the fishing industry and of much of the 54) that he liked Hull 'because it's so far away from city's industry was still to come.

haunted by larks and seabirds. roofed by immense pavilions of windy cloud: the miles of brownish-purple shining mud .' (iii) the urban-rural contrasts ('gathers to the surprise of a large town' (Here). Heaney's categorization of Larkin (with Ted Hughes and Geoffrey Hill) as one of the 'hoarders and shorers' of what is taken to be the 'real England' is expressing a similar argument. the guildhalls. Going. which ceased to run in Hull in 1964. Livings (1971)) is something that has struck other writers.. and the emptiness and spaciousness of the landscape ('a big sky drains down the estuary'. feeling for his native country' simply on the basis of Going. 1973). the rural and picturesque'. As Raymond Williams has demon strated. as England's external power and influence diminished. obviously impressed Larkin..214 Spooner are being ruined by development. the loneliness. This is at variance with his views that nothing much happens in the provinces-rather they . running high as hedges' (Here)). in the 1950s and 1960s. Going or his musings on the Great War in MCMXIV (1960). urban yet simple' (Here)). However this is the only place where England as a geographical or political abstraction features in his poems. Terry Eagleton considered that Larkin betrays a disaffection that belongs to his (provincial) place and time and an England in accelerating decline. what Williams describes as the endlessly recessive 'happy Englands of my boyhood'. 'the river's level drifting breadth' (TheWhitsun Weddings)). the flattest of all major English cities. significantly commissioned by the Depart ment of the Environment. reminiscent of the sleek southern landscape described by George Orwell on his return from Catalonia in 1938 . the brave infrequent flowers. the green bosoms of the elms. the carved choirs.. and Booth (1992) rightly points out thatwe should be cautious to attribute to Larkin (as did Draper (1989)) a 'deeply patriotic . the lanes. Orwell and Larkin may simply be two recent examples in a long line of English prose and poetry writers who have expressed a concept of the country that is essentially a senti mental idea stemming from childhood. 'a cut-price crowd. There is perhaps here more than nostal gia. It has been argued that inmany respects the provincial England that is portrayed conveys an atmosphere of desolation. but Larkin makes (ii) the spacious estuary ('the widening river's slow presence' (Here). 1980). the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate. the great ships gliding up to Kingsport .. the meadows. Arguably this last theme is less place specific.. raw estates brought down/The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys' is a neat reminder of a form of public transport. The sort of provincial England that Larkin seems to be regretting inGoing.. 'where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet'. He concludes gloomily 'that will be England gone'.. the craving to preserve communal ways and rituals (show Saturdays. church-going and marriages atWhitsun) and to confirm a threatened identity (Heaney.. the slow-moving streams bordered by willows. Orwell also wrote at length and in detail of the industrial north and its horrors.. nostalgia for pastoral golden ages is as old as civilization itself (Williams. He sees Larkin's 'England of the mind' as continuous in many ways with the England of Rupert Brooke's Grantchester and Edward Thomas's Adlestrop-'an England of customs and institutions.. In the same way. 'and out beyond its half-built edges/Fast shadowed mortgaged wheatfields.. an intensified valuing of native English experi ence. the reluctant springs. the larkspurs in the cottage gardens'. Larkin's dis illusion with change is perhaps unsurprising. is a nostalgic ruralone 'the shadows. though 'residents from. There are clear affinities with Winifred Holtby's description in South Riding (1936) of 'the wide Dutch landscape. the silence . but also an England whose pastoral hinterland is threatened by the very success of those institutions' (Heaney. 168).. the trolley bus. Poet of provincial England? In Here and other poems we link to the wider interpretation of Larkin as a poet of provincial life. (iv) the working class culture. the social geography of the city ('grim head-scarved wives'.9 As a declared anti-modernist. This sentiment ismost clearly expressed inGoing. the popularity of the children's books by Beatrix Potter (and of visits to Hill Top Farm) is argued by Squire(1993) to be linked strongly to nostalgia for an English countryside separate from the city-'Old England. and of the construction of huge blocks of council housing on the edge of this. 1980..10 where Larkin laments the concreting of our green and pleasant land-'the bleak high rises' (very visible in North Hull from his University eyrie) .. Larkin's England is really not identified clearly as an ideological territory. Going (1972). 'railway cut tings smothered inwild flowers.'. industrial and domestic. 'the whole boiling will be bricked in'. The estuary.

Iam Larkin strongly admired the poetry of Betjeman. itwould be Acknowledgements unwise perhaps to overstress the different. for example. most of his grateful to participants at the conference. and to collect a sackful . save on Until the next town. 4 See. 1973). 5 Larkin'saverred antipathy to travel is often associated with his remark that he wouldn't come actually back often the same travelled mind going to China Bennett if he could of Hull' day. and to David Sibley and Catherine Spooner. according to The Independent 'the city'smost famous and Betjeman and Larkin are quite different in residentwas the master of gloom. and Larkinland in the 1 Independent on Sunday 15 November 1995 ('Becalmed inLarkinland' by Stephen McClarence). Although LarkinsforOld Conference at Hull University in 1997. but this temptation should be 2 Other recent examples include a description of Hull in resisted. and the sparseness of specific identifiable references in the poetry. Approached with acres of dismantled cars. The basis for seeing outer-provincial England 3 References to individualpoems in this paper indicate as Larkinland is tenuous. Yet the Wide farms went by. Oxford. Betjeman in any case wrote profusely about TheGuardian as 'feted glumly by Philip Larkinand left many English places beyond Metroland (notably behind by the famous' (16 October 1997). 1992). There is at present Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth little acknowledgement of Larkin's presence. short-shadowed cattle. We are afforded only glimpses of this glimpses of provincial English life are provided in some of his poems (good examples are To the Sea legendary north inHere. with its evocation of the traditional English ('the weekday world of those/Who leave at dawn seaside holiday. for theircomments on that own poetry studiously avoids measuring the present version. Similarly while relatively little acknowledgement of this other provin cial England. but Alan in England has wittily pointed out that the self-proclaimed 'hermit at least. shadows pointed towards the pithead:/in the sun the There appears therefore to be limited scope for slagheap slept'). a poignant episode in the with their portrayal of the rural shires) they do not life of a mining village ('on the day of the explosion/ provide a coherent picture of provincial England or its landscapes. even congested.A Rumoured City: New Poets from Hull. city of Hull might certainly make more of its Larkin A hothouse flashed uniquely. hedges and cattle are city promotion is likely to be constrained by his mixed with roofs and gardens. and Monica Jones'Northumberland cottage. Going. with frequent journeys to London. This is the more typical Larkin voice. and the use of Larkin's poetry in rural England. yard and site') and The Explosion. while Cornwall and other parts of the South West). urban Kingston upon Hull. Poems. new and nondescript Hull University's campus. The Large Cool Store (1961) (1969). There is a temptation to see post-war England as poetically divided between Betjeman's Metroland in Notes the suburbanizing south-east. provincial mid-century England-is Despite the specificities of Here and a few other poems which provide added value for those who know Hull and East Yorkshire.hedges dipped connections as the place that the poet lived and And rose. Larkin's poems are the completion date recorded in Larkin'sCollected predominantly personal rather than provincial. peripheral regions. and even there it ismuted. against the past. as exemplified by experience as a newcomer not able or perhaps these lines from The Whitsun Weddings: wishing to become the complete insider).What we do have-until the wistful a neutral and observant ness of Going. which positively brims with nostalgia. chemical froth and ambivalent attitude towards the city (reflecting his abandoned cars (Davie. Going-is the exploitation of the Larkin heritage in the city of description of an inhabited. and Canals with floatings of industrialfroth.Reflections on the place of Larkin 21 5 describe Larkin as a poet of place. and now and then a smell of grass worked in (the shrine concept). Livings and Show Saturday (1973). tone of Going. Philip Larkin' (10 their treatment of place and Englishness (Booth. edited by Dunn and with a preface by Conclusion Itwould appear that the concept of Larkinland either as Kingston upon Hull and its hinterland. but for An earlierversion of thispaper was presented at the New Larkinmore unusual. We await 'theWorld of Philip Larkin'. where farms. the anthology. it is an exaggeration to Larkin. or as a dubious one. low terraced houses/Timed for factory. November 1998). the lack of glamour in his portrayal of it.

.London) MacGibbon J (ed) (1978) Stevie Smith: selected poems (Penguin. London) (Faber and Faber. Hull) Watson Salwak Williams J R (1989) D. Basingstoke) 90-111 R (1973) The country and the city (Chatto Windus. existential outsiders and insiders:theirportrayal in two books by Doris Lessing' in Pocock D C D (ed)Humanistic geography and literature (CroomHelm. Geography 77. London) 9-19 Pocock D C D (1987 ) 'Haworth:the experience of literary place' in Mallory W and Simpson-Housley P (eds) Geography and literature:a meeting of the disciplines (SyracuseUniversity Press. 134-42 Spooner D. Elliott-White M and Davidson N (Macmillan. New York) Rough Guide (1998) England: the Rough Guide (Rough Guides.nowhere man' Paper presented at theNew LarkinsforOld Conference at Hull University. Hull was and still is an Inter mediate Area but the term 'greyarea' has faded from use.) (1992) Selected letters of Philip Larkin (Faberand Faber. London) London) The literature of region poems 1964-83 and nation Drabble M (1979) A writer's Britain. (ed.London) Larkin Larkin P (1983) Required writing: miscellaneous pieces. Karran T. London) Pocock D C D (1981) 'Introduction:imaginative literature and the geographer' in Pocock D C D (ed) Humanistic geography and literature(CroomHelm. 1968-78 (Faber and Faber. but moved to PalmersGreen.London) Rossen J (1989) Philip Larkin:his life'swork (Harvester Wheatsheaf. Hemel Hempstead) Bradbury M (ed. Booth J (1 992) PhilipLarkin. 7 The line is from the poem The RiverHumber. South Riding. Larkin's Here'. draws strongly on her experience of local landscapes. London) (Macmillan.. the man and and values' his work and in Heaney S (1980) Preoccupations. 1978).216 Spooner HoltbyW (1936) South Riding (Viragoedition: 1988) Kong L and Tay L (1998) 'Exalting the past: nostalgia and of honours and seven honorary degrees-'he's about as big a recluse as the late Bubbles Rothermere' (Bennett 1994. 1955-82 (Faberand Faber. 368). London) 101-20 Motion A (1993) Philip Larkin:a writer's life (Faber and Faber. Hull) Squire S J (1993) 'Valuing countryside: reflections on Beatrix Potter tourism' Area 25. a feature of British regional policy in the 1 970s. collected inRequiredWriting.) 'Philip Larkin: voices Philip Larkin. Londonwhen she was 3 years old (MacGibbon. was encouraged to relocate to 'grey' whereby industry or Intermediate Areas. 236-43 Porteous JD (1997) 'PhilipLarkin. References Bennett A (1994)Writing home (Faberand Faber. 133-44 P (1988) Collected poems (Faberand Faber. London) Brett R L (1988) 'Philip Larkin in Hull' in Hartley G (ed) Philip Larkin 1922-85. Paul. Syracuse) 135-42 Pocock D C D (1992) 'Catherine Cookson Country: tourist expectation and experience' Geography 77. London) . London) Dunn D (ed) (1982) A rumouredcity:new poets fromHull (Bloodaxe. a tribute (The Marvell Press. London) Heaney S (1982) 'The main of light' in Thwaite A(ed. which were struggling to com pete with themore seriously depressed 'black'Devel opment Areas where generous financial incentives were already available. 8 Winifred Holtby was brought up in the East Riding of Yorkshire and her last novel. j'accuse'-Larkin as the poet of 'a society in accelerating industrial decline.) Larkin at sixty (Faber and Faber.Harmondsworth) Middleton C (1981) 'Rootsand rootlessness: an exploration of the concept in the life and novels of George Eliot' in Pocock D C D (ed)Humanistic geography and literature (CroomHelm.) (1996) The atlasof literature(DeAgostini.London) Hartley J (1995) Philip Larkin'sHull and East Yorkshire (University of Hull and Hutton Press. 27-29 June Relph E (1976) Place and Placelessness (Pion. 'Philip Larkin. Kingsport. London) Seamon D (1981) 'Newcomers. London).with no big brave causes left'.London) Writer (Harvester Wheatsheaf.1955.. 100-14 Davie D (1973) Thomas Hardy and British poetry (Routledge (Thames Draper Dunn and Kegan and Hudson.London) Orwell G (1938) Homage to Catalonia (Secker and Warburg. selected prose. in1992. Newcastle upon Tyne) of (I1996) The imageof Hull: a researchprofile (University Hull. Stevie Smithwas born inHull. is a thinly disguised Kingston upon Hull. 10 This poem isdated in its reference to 'greyarea grants'.landscape in literature R P (ed) (1989) D (1 986) Selected Area the construction of heritage in children's literature' 30. 9 This view was expressed in a Channel 4 television programme. London) 85-100 Spooner D (1992) 'Places I'llremember. for example. bereft of its imperialglory. 5-10 Thwaite A (ed. 6 From 'Statement'.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->