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This review is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

SUCH ABSENCES PHILIP LARKIN, Poems: Selected by Martin Amis (Faber and Faber) £14.99

Larkin was a painstaking editor of his own work. His efforts were rendered futile with the publication, three years after his death, of Collected Poems (1988), edited by Anthony Thwaite. It included 242 poems, 135 more than Larkin had given us in his four very slim volumes. Many of these 135 were previously unpublished - several were even unfinished - but while some of them are atrocious, a few are superb or at least have superb elements. Thwaite also reordered Larkin's oeuvre to present the poems chronologically, and broke this chronology in two by putting all the 'early' poems, including the vast majority of the more Yeatsean ones, at the back. I have no idea whether Larkin would have approved, but it certainly made for a fascinating book.

It was apparently superseded in 2003 by a second Collected Poems. However, while the later book retained the order of Larkin's collections, and included poems that had been published elsewhere by the poet, it omitted everything that had not been chosen for publication during his life - so some of the more intriguing pieces that had already been published were bumped off. Of course, it was a more consistent book than its predecessor, but at a mere two hundred pages it was also something of a regression.

Early in 2012 both Collecteds are to be superseded in turn by a Complete Poems, edited by Archie Bennett. Last year I noted in Essays in Criticism that Larkin has ...


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