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April 2012

Nomination: Afternoons [September 1959. From The Whitsun Weddings]

This poem was written when Philip Larkin lived in his top flat in Pearson Park in Hull. He loved living in a high room, where he could observe the comings and goings of other people. As he walked through the park he used to pass a children’s playground, and what he saw there inspired this bleak poem. I often thought of it when I myself was a young mother in the late 50’s and 60’s, and knew exactly what he meant by “the hollows of afternoons”. But how did Philip know? This poem is an example of his acute observation and imaginative ability to get inside the skin of his subjects. It is a poem that will never date as long as there are young mothers and children and play-grounds.

Winifred Dawson [2001]

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