Friday, January 07, 2011

Nothing to be said

I just dove into the wreck and pulled out this post from my first blog, which was about the British poet Philip Larkin.  Because I need it as background for the next post.  Originally posted 11/30/2004.

You have to imagine me, little miss southern small town evangelical, graduating from high school and heading north for my excellent college adventure. It was a huge adventure in a way-- I went so far, and all alone. After my mom dropped me off the weekend before freshman orientation, I didn't see anyone I had ever seen before for a very long time. But on the other hand, I went to an evangelical christian college (to start, I transferred later), so it wasn't as huge as it might have been. I was innocent in just about every way there is to be innocent. For one thing, although I read voraciously, I had read nothing other than the standard high school stuff-- Hard Times, MacBeth, A Separate Peace-- and loads and loads of science fiction.

So I spent my freshman year taking all the required courses. Then my sophomore year, I took a class on British Lit from the Romantics to the present. At the end of the course, the professor assigned each of us a modern poet-- not in the literary sense of "Modern" but a poet that was still living. I got Philip Larkin, who was still living then, but died shortly thereafter. I had never heard of him. I didn't think much of poetry at the time and I never did particularly like that professor, whose name I can no longer remember (Rollins? Rolle? Raleigh?) but somehow or another I took a shine to Philip Larkin. Various lines from his poems still surface in my mind even though its been 25 years.   "he chucked everything and just cleared off" ('Poetry of Departures'); "they fuck you up, your mum and dad," ('This Be the Verse'); "saying so to some means nothing; to others it leaves nothing to be said" ('Nothing to be Said') and so on. I had no idea until about a month ago that he and Ted Hughes represented two entirely different directions for English poetry, and are each thought to be the best representative of their "school." Well, I should re-word that. Maybe I Professor R. told us those precise words in that long-ago class, but I have no memory of it.

In case you've never run into him before, here is a bit of 'Poetry of Departures.'  I can't print the whole thing because it's still copyrighted, but you can probably google it if you want the rest.

We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
Its specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?

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