Nomination: The Explosion [5 January 1970. From High Windows]
Not the first time this has been chosen, I know, but particularly and tragically relevant.
What originally drew me to this poem had been an adolescent, D.H. Lawrence inspired fantasy which may have been partly responsible for my falling for (and marrying) the son of a man who worked underground at Silverwood Colliery, near Maltby. I liked the way that Larkin ennobled the miners, mythologizing them through his imagery and also of course through the allusive metre. As a child I always thought the cowboys were the baddies (not least because they had such short hair); so what with Lawrence and Hiawatha this poem couldn’t fail.
But today, with thousands of people dead, lost, missing, bereaved I return to ‘The Explosion’ and its extraordinary capacity to freeze-frame the pivotal, apocalyptic moment between life and death; the nano second in which life is still present but death is a certainty. “At noon, there came tremor”. The explosion underground, the earthquake under water. The eggs all broken.