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February 2002

Nomination: Tops [24 October 1953. From Collected Poems (1988)]

This poem was written in 1953, but did not appear in any of the major collections, and deserves to be better known. In my opinion it is an amazing poem, in which Philip shows his skill at relating an insignificant and commonplace occurrence to a universal theme. The barely perceptible running-down of the top presages the first signs of ageing and death, of which Philip had felt such terror since he was a very young man.

‘What most appals
Is that tiny first shiver..’

How absolutely and incontrovertibly true!

Winifred Dawson

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