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This article is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

'Gold as on a Coin': Philip Larkin and Vernon Watkin William Wootten
Vernon Watkins's influence on Philip Larkin is rarely commented upon. But then Watkins's few devotees are not necessarily also fans of Larkin. So, in the main, the acknowledgement that Watkins influenced Larkin is confined to an acceptance of Anthony Thwaite's statement that many of the poems in The North Ship 'show the blended influence of Yeats and Watkins from 1943 until Larkin dispatched the typescript of that collection to the Fortune Press in November 1944.'

The poems in The North Ship have their virtues, but no one would be much interested in them had their author not gone on to write other more accomplished poems in a different manner. Accordingly, Watkins nearly always figures in accounts of the mature Larkin as a negative presence: Watkins and Watkins's Yeats is what Larkin got away from. Even those, such as Barbara Everett or Seamus Heaney, who have drawn attention to Larkin's romantic moments and (in High Windows particularly) his reaching back to the Symbolist tradition treat Watkins largely as a facilitator: the man who got Larkin excited about Yeats.

An exception is Andrew Motion who, in his biography of Larkin, draws attention to Watkins's influence, not on Larkin the impressionable undergraduate, but on the successful poet who had just finished The Whitsun Weddings. In 1966 Larkin visited Watkins on the Gower peninsula hoping to persuade him to donate Dylan Thomas's manuscripts to the British Museum. 'In November,' Motion writes, 'Larkin wrote "Solar", the only poem he had finished since ...


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