Nomination: I Remember, I Remember [8 January 1954. From The Less Deceived]
Although Philip Larkin and I come from different worlds and diffferent decades, we share one close affinity — our Coventry birthplace. How many other Philip Larkin Society members can claim that, I wonder? Accordingly, ‘I Remember, I Remember’ (previously and provisionally titled ‘Reverent’ and ‘At Coventry’ by Larkin) means a lot to me.There are other personal affiliations, too. The Gaffneys were an itinerant bunch and soon I was gone elsewhere so Coventry was ‘just where I started’, and it was many years later before I came back to investigate not only Larkin’s origins but mine as well. And I suppose the poem’s last two lines summarise lots of people’s feelings whilst in a reflective mood — or resentful as perhaps Larkin was — about an unlovely birthplace: ‘It’s not the place’s fault. . . . / Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’
Again, like Larkin, I was up at Oxford, not to study literature as he did but politics / social studies, so I don’t claim any Literary scholarship. Nevertheless, I take issue with some specialists who warn against reading too much reality into Larkin’s words. The more I read of the man and his background, the more his words seem to ring true. ‘I Remember, I Remember’ sounds accurate enough to me, where all the biographical facts fall into place like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. Maybe it’s just my natural curiosity but it always mystified me as to who his travelling companion was in the poem. Was it just imagination on his part or a literary contrivance? The secret remained until I read Letters to Monica recently. Now the truth (see p. 192/193) and another nugget of Larkin Topography falls into place.