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January 2001

Nomination: Coming [25 February 1950. From XX Poems and The Less Deceived]

I have chosen ‘Coming’ as January’s Poem of the Month – and the first in what promises to be a long series – primarily because it was the first of Larkin’s poems that I ever came across. I was introduced to it by my then English master (Commander Cummings !) at school in the late 1960s.

The images which struck me most were the ‘serene/ Foreheads of houses’ and the song of the thrush ‘Astonishing the brickwork’.

Now, I like the lack of poetical form and metre (as much as I admire the strict formal regularity of such later poems as ‘Here’ and ‘The Whitsun Weddings’); the natural syntax, and the ease with which the poem can be read and understood; and its unfolding optimism.

The poetical devices are all (subtly) linguistic: the repetition of the letter ‘L’ in the first two lines (not strictly alliteration ?), and the assonance throughout the poem.

‘Coming’ was my introduction to Larkin and his poetry. Being at that time more interested in sport than literature, for a while I forgot the name of the author, but not the line ‘Astonishing the brickwork’. That, for me, explains my attraction to Larkin: the poetry is always more important than the poet. Larkin’s work, more than any other poet’s, consistently speaks to me.

How strange, that so many of my favourite poems were written by him.

James L. Orwin

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