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April 2002

Nomination: Absences [28 November 1950. From The Less Deceived]

Larkin claimed a special affection for ‘Absences’, perhaps because he knew that in matter and manner it works in ways which might take his readers, and himself, slightly by surprise: “I fancy it sounds like a different, better poet than myself,” he wrote of it. ‘Absences’ was one of the poems from The Less Deceived that we O level schoolboys of the early 1970s didn’t much bother with; not when there were so many other poems which seeemed to say so much more. Now, the poem’s not-saying, the absorption in emptiness, the thrill of self-forgetting seem more fundamental to Larkin’s imagination as a kind of half-submerged, almost-secret longing.

Andrew Swarbrick

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