Nomination: This Be The Verse [? April 1971]
They fuck you up your mum and dad … has always struck me as a fantastic opening line for a poem. It’s there in your face from the very start. A startling but, at the same time, thought-provoking piece of truth. After working with children and their parents for nearly 40 years, I’m sure that much of what happens to them is down to their parents. The line too that they didn’t mean to is probably equally true in most instances. Most of us choose one of two approaches to being parents. Firstly, we either do it as our own parents did (If it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them) or we do the direct opposite, taking the view There’s no way I’m going to bring up my children like I was brought up. I always thought it would be nice, once in a while, to write in a report They’ve fucked him up … But you can’t, can you? I also love the final thought of Larkin – the answer is not to have any children yourself: a wonderfully delightful piece of cynicism.