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This review is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

To Me it was Dilution philip larkin, Complete Poems, edited by Archie Burnett (Faber) £40

Larkin died in 1985 with four very short collections of poetry to his name. There was also a smattering of other published poems, such as 'Aubade', included in the TLS at Christmas 1977 and brimming with tidings of comfort and joy:

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now [...].

Collected Poems was published three years after unresting death caught up with him. It was surprisingly thick, the editor Anthony Thwaite including a lot of poems Larkin had chosen not to publish or hadn't even finished. Some were superb, or at least illuminating; others were neither. A slimmer Collected then appeared in 2003, followed a couple of years later by an unfeasibly fat volume of juvenilia, this time edited by A.T. Tolley.

Now these books have potentially been superseded in turn by the present, altogether more substantial tome. The poems in Complete Poems are split into seven categories: the four collections plus 'Other Poems Published in the Poet's Lifetime', 'Poems Not Published in the Poet's Lifetime' and 'Undated or Approximately Dated Poems' - the latter three categories covering 230 pages and filling considerably more than twice the space of the first four. Such a book needs justifying, in the light of its predecessors, and Burnett ...


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