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This Be The Verse

September 2002

Nomination: This Be The Verse [April 1971. From High Windows]

For millions, this terribly British poem encapsulates both the agony of parenthood and our rage at our parents for having, inevitably, deranged us at times. It cleverly leaves open the question of whether our parents filled us with the faults they had (and added some extra just for you) through their negligent care or by passing on dud genes. The most memorable lines, ‘man hands on misery to man, it deepens like a coastal shelf’, have a resonance equal to any of the greatest poetry, yet Larkin’s crisp, dark humour throughout allows us to be in on a joke, avoiding American earnestness and providing British authenticity.

Oliver James

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