Larkin’s Letters

Now and again you get a happy accident. I had one three weeks ago, browsing in Telford Library, when I saw a copy of Letters to Monica, Larkin’s correspondance with Monica Jones. I’d read a biography, and knew a lot of the poems, but I thought I’d give this a try. It’s been fascinating. He’s a curmudgeonly old moaner, feeling past it at the age of 45, inhibited and remorselessly self-critical – and in his treatment of the women in his life there is a lot to be criticised. But you also get a fascinating commentary on the business of writing poems, and revising poems. I’ve read this slowly, a bit at a time, every morning with a c mug of tea before breakfast. I’ve had the poems on the table as I’ve read. every time the letters mention a poem, I look it up, read it, and then go back to the letters. It feels a bit like being a professor without any of the tedious bits, and I’ve had a ball. It”s also reminded me just how good the best of the poems are.