Philip Larkin…

… was a very serious poet, but he may be best known for his mordant “This be the verse”, with its famous NSFW first line that was even the theme for an issue of Granta. I was surprised and tickled to see a YouTube of Larkin photos over a reading of that poem at Carl Zimmer’s evo blog The Loom.

A commenter on that post said it was not Larkin reading, and I wondered who it might be. I followed my instincts to fellow curmudgeon John Derbyshire’s site, where to my delight I found a thoughtful and funny page on the poem, and a reading by Derb.

But it was a different version! If anyone knows if the other is actually Larkin I’d appreciate knowing.

I had a funny collision with Larkin in the mid -seventies when I was an editor at English Literary Renaissance, a scholarly journal. I was ordered to commission (for free of course) an intro to our special Marvell edition from him, in his capacity as librarian at Hull. I was afraid of his legendary brusqueness, but he turned out to be as amiable could be, and immediately wrote the piece.

Leave a Comment