Monday, 15 April 2013

Philip Larkin - Love Again

Love Again

Love again: wanking at ten past three 
(Surely he’s taken her home by now?),
The bedroom hot as a bakery,
The drink gone dead, without showing how
To meet tomorrow, and afterwards, 
And the usual pain, like dysentery.

Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt,
Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare, 
And me supposed to be ignorant, 
Or find it funny, or not to care, 
Even ... but why put it into words? 
Isolate rather this element 

That spreads through other lives like a tree 
And sways them on in a sort of sense 
And say why it never worked for me. 
Something to do with violence 
A long way back, and wrong rewards,
And arrogant eternity.

20 September 1979

From The Complete Poems (2012)
© The Estate of Philip Larkin

Reviewing Anthony Thwaite's 1988 edition of Larkin's Collected Poems, the late, great poet and critic Ian Hamilton grouped 'Love Again' with a handful of previously unpublished poems he termed 'desperately miserable, indeed inconsolable.' It's hard to disagree. Even though 'Love Again' has its faults — what Hamilton was apt to call 'wonky' moments as poetry — its searing power makes such blemishes seem negligible. And while some critics resist a purelyautobiographical reading of Larkin's work, the poem's roots seem painfully, fallibly human. Sexual jealousy makes for unforgettable imagery: 'Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt,/Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare...' (Hardy would have cherished that heart-stopping, hyphenated image of the loved one.) But as Martin Amis and others have observed, Larkin also seemed to enter a poetic No Man's Land in this late, self-probing, almost stunted lyric from 1979; as with the similarly late and inquisitional 'Aubade,' Larkin was posing questions about his own nature he was unable to answer, perhaps triggering his final poetic silence. The poem's raw intimacies can make us feel like voyeurs, but we read on. 'Love Again' is a final, angry burst of lyrical power from a great poet.


Terry Kelly works as a journalist in South Tyneside. He contributed to AL 15; a review of Early Poems and Juvenilia to AL 19 and an interview with Larkin biographer Richard Bradford and a review of his First Boredom Then Fear:The Life of Philip Larkin to AL 20. Another passion is Bob Dylan and he is a regular contributor to the UK fanzine The Bridge: www.

And he's a dyed-in-the-wool, fully paid-up member of the FNB. Busy guy.


  1. Good to see Larkin making an appearance and a fine choice of poem.

    Not at all sure about that caricature though.....Pinter's aggressive jutting chin...Yorkshire Ripper eyes....muscular tortoise neck.....and a post lobotomy skull.

    Just doesn't "catch" him.

    See below a moving poem published in the Spectator after he went "to the inevitable" on that "black sailed unfamiliar"

    In Memoriam, Philip Larkin by R. Grffiths

    Poor Philip being never much on looks,
    rather like our Alfred, skinny and bald,
    no girls will grieve him, a head full of books,
    at seventeen he was forty years old.

    He did not go for life, and thought of death
    as most men think of sex, for life was dull,and sex was duller still; he saved his breath,
    he ate, smoked,went along, at last was ill.

    So, Lord, if in the end you must exist,be kindly to him now, who's only sin,
    (remember, after all, he died unkissed)
    was not to praise the muck you dropped him in.

  2. I have a request...(if this is allowed....who knows as I've been censored recently on this very board....cut me to the quick it did)

    Insert a piece about Brian O'Nolan
    aka Flann O'Brien aka Myles na gCopaleen.

    Another flawed drunken Celtic micro meteorite genius.

    I wrote this short verse after seeing him being interviewed blind ranting drunk 30 years ago.

    A Few too Many

    Too much to say
    At swim two minds
    Press rolling home, prose tight and shone
    Bleached sharp white stone
    On Cruiskeen Lawn

    But oh poor soul
    Those crumpled shoulders
    Face multi muscled the words a'torrent.
    Still, some little sense in that

    Legs on the wander, mind on the blink
    You see the bleary eyes alone
    Did but require a saintly measure
    Of love and grace

  3. For anyone who's interested ....I just uploaded a 60 minute film from my archive featuring Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and the above mentioned Brian O'Nolan to YouTube.

    Here's the link to copy and paste...