Philip Larkin

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In what way was Philip Larkin a Movement poet ?

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The Movement poets of the 1950s in England pushed back against the many experimentations of the Modernist poets of the earlier part of the twentieth century. Modernist poetry, such as that by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, was often highly allusive (therefore aimed at an educated reader) and difficult to understand. In contrast, the Movement poets wrote in simple language and in a traditional style that was easily accessible to the average person.

Larkin is a Movement poet in his use of simple language wedded to commentary about contemporary life in post-World War II Britain. For example, in his poem "Church Going," he focuses on the loss of religious faith in the everyday life of ordinary British folk of his period. He uses plain language as his speaker states he is:

wondering too
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show
Their parchment plate and pyx in locked cases

Yet Larkin, a good Movement poet, also uses traditional poetic devices, such as alliteration (which is when words that begin with the same consonant are placed in close proximity). Words such "cathedrals chronically" and "parchment," "plate," and "pyx" create a pleasing and old-fashioned sense of rhythm.

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The Movement was a group of British poets in the 1950s that included Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, D.J. Enright and Donald Davie. They were known for an anti-Romantic stance, opposition to modernism and internationalism, return toi tradition verse forms, and focus on ordinary lower and middle class life. Larkin's poetry is typical in its use of traditional metrical forms, self-deprecating stance, understated language, and portrayals of ordinary daily life. Like other members of the Movement, he graduated from a grammar rather than independent school, and retained a strong identity as a provincial "small Englander". A typical example of his attitude towards life and work, that typifies the Movement in it's portrait of the ordinary, is the ending of "Toads Revisited":


No, give me my in-tray,
My loaf-haired secretary,
My shall-I-keep-the-call-in-Sir:...

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