Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although Philip Larkin is thought of today primarily as a poet, his first literary successes were novels: Jill (1946, 1964) and A Girl in Winter (1947). The two were widely acclaimed for their accomplished style, accurate dialogue, and subtle characterization. Jill was valued highly for its intimate look at wartime Oxford. The protagonist in each is an outsider who encounters great difficulty in attempting to fit into society, and the two novels explore themes of loneliness and alienation to which Larkin returns time and again in his later poetry. Larkin wrote comparatively little about literature and granted few interviews. His literary essays were collected into Required Writings: Miscellaneous Pieces, 1955-1982 (1984). He also wrote extensively on jazz, chiefly in his reviews for the Daily Telegraph, and a number of those pieces appear in the volume All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961-1968 (1970). His opinions of jazz works are frequently instructive for the reader who wishes to understand his views on poetry, particularly his comments on what he saw as the “modernist” jazz of Charlie Parker, which, like all modernism, concentrates on technique while violating the truth of human existence. True to his precepts, Larkin eschewed, throughout his career, technical fireworks in favor of a poetic that reflects the language of the people. He edited New Poems, 1958, with Louis MacNeice and Bonamy Dobrée, and he was chosen to compile The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse (1973).