PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PNR266 Now Available
The latest issue of PN Review is now available to read online. read more
Most Read... Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Next Issue Stav Poleg Running Between Languages Jeffrey Meyers on Mr W.H. (Auden) Miles Burrows The Critic as Cleaning Lady Timothy Ades translates Brecht, Karen Leeder translates Ulrike Almut Sandig
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

CORE OF THE WOUND MAEVE BRENNAN, The Philip Larkin I Knew (Manchester University Press), £40 hb, £14.99 pb

Sheer inaccuracy; this is the verdict, in Larkin's poem `Reasons for Attendance', on the view that the lion's share of happiness is found by couples. The poem sets up a dichotomy between the men on the inside, avid for `[t]he wonderful feel of girls', and the man on the outside, proudly singled, drawn by art's `lifted, rough-tongued bell'. The tension between these two poles seems, in the penultimate line of the poem, to reach a momentary equilibrium - both insiders and outsiders are satisfied with their lot. But the last line admits a characteristic note of doubt: such satisfaction only subsists `[i]f no one has misjudged himself. Or lied'. This tension between coupling and singleness plays through other notable Larkin poems - `Dockery and Son', `Self's the Man', `The Whitsun Weddings' - which pose it in normative, nineteen-fifties terms: a coupling whose only end is marriage and procreation, or a singleness that courts sterility but preserves the possibility of artistic vision. These terms, however, block the exploration of other kinds of relationships - the kinds of relationships that, as we now know, Larkin had. He could not resist coupling but, in his not unsatisfactory prime, he eschewed the exclusivity of the couple, maintaining complex triangular or quadrangular arrangements. His poetry, however, rarely engages explicitly with the ethical and social implications of these arrangements; which is one reason, beyond those of curiosity and prurience, for taking an interest in them.

The most enduring of the triangular relationships was ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image