Philip Larkin on the conflict between work and poetry

From now on, when people inquire how I feel about working a day job, I think I’ll defer to Philip Larkin. Asked about his life as a University of Hull librarian, the poet replied:

Taking it all in all, work and I get on fairly well, I think. There are just these occasions when one would like to prove it by not working for a bit.

And to feel that you’re spending your life on the one rather than the other I think is perhaps the most depressing thought that work can bring you — that when I bind up library committee minutes at the end of five years it makes a big fat volume, but it’s not the same as a volume of poetry. They are very good minutes — but the minute as an art form has its limitations.

You can also hear Larkin read “Aubade,” which rightly tops Alex Balk’s Listicle without Commentary: The 94 Best Philip Larkin Poems, In Order. “This is a special way of being afraid/ No trick dispels. Religion used to try, / That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade/ Created to pretend we never die.”

I know, I always get so dramatic when my birthday is approaching.


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