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January 2, 2013

A single shot at emotion, hit or miss

Spring was the other poem, of the six, that Monica really liked (click here). But I, and Larkin, prefer this one.

In 1964, in Further Requirements, Larkin wrote perhaps the finest explanation ever, of this particular poetic technique – the master describing his masterpiece:

The most difficult kind of poem to write is the expression of a sharp uncomplicated experience, the vivid emotion you can’t wind yourself into slowly but have to take a single shot at, hit or miss. Some fifteen years ago in February, I heard a bird singing in some garden when I was walking home from work: after tea I tried to describe it, and after supper revised what I had written. That was the poem, and I must say I have always found it successful. It is called ‘Coming’ — what is coming, I suppose, is Spring.

This, despite the forgotten boredom, is the uncynical Larkin baring his feelings. Amis would have harrumphed, but the rest of us know exactly what he’s talking about.


On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon —
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.

Philip Larkin

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