Nomination: Sunny Prestatyn [October 1962? From The Whitsun Weddings]
‘Sunny Prestatyn’ from Larkin’s second collection The Whitsun Weddings is perhaps the nearest he gets to pop-art and in his own words, is intended to be both horrific and funny.
Larkin is a poet who helps us to see. I’ve never been one for ‘inspiration’ or ‘muse’ – writing poetry to me is looking hard at things, keeping your wits about you and if something unexpectedly pops out – gives you some sort of charge – then focus – think think think – get something down – and if it’s still worthwhile, make a poem out of it.
‘Sunny Prestatyn’ exemplifies this. The first of the three stanzas descibes that universal symbol of happiness – a pretty girl on a seaside poster. Unfortunately a couple of weeks after being ‘slapped up’ some travellers had been at work on her and – as the second stanza unravels – we find her rendered grotesque – ‘snaggle-toothed and boss-eyed’ further disfigured by the addition of ‘a tuberous cock and balls’.
Larkin’s love of pornography serves him well in the neatly accurate descriptive passages of time-honoured graffiti but two contrasting aspects of his art stand out for me in the third and final stanza picking up on my earlier point:
Someone had used a knife
Or something to stab right through
The moustached lips of her smile.
I think ‘or something’ – seemingly so easily achieved – is absolutely right. Don’t waste your time trying to think of ‘something’ better when the demotic stares back at you straight in the face! The following line in the poem is the best one:
She was too good for this life.
Such a graceful and needed leap demonstrating Larkin’s power to move before he ends the poem twice with:
Left only a hand and some blue.
Now Fight Cancer is there.