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The North Ship Paperback – 2 Apr 2015
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Re-packaged in the much-loved Faber typographic look.
About the Author
Philip Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922 and was educated at King Henry VIII School, Coventry, and St John's College, Oxford. As well as his volumes of poems, which include The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows, he wrote two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter, and two books of collected journalism: All What Jazz: A Record Library, and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Prose. He worked as a librarian at the University of Hull from 1955 until his death in 1985. He was the best-loved poet of his generation, and the recipient of innumerable honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and the WHSmith Award.
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The North Ship, Philip Larkin's first book, is considered one of the classics of modern poetry. But you'd never know that given the somewhat embarrassed introduction Larkin wrote tot he 1965 Faber and Faber edition:
"...the book was nicely enough produced, with hardly any misprints; above all, it was indubitably there, and ambition tangibly satisfied. Yet was it? Then, as now, I could never contemplate it without a twinge, faint or powerful, of shame compounded with disappointment...."
The thing is, every specific charge Larkin levels against himself in the introduction is valid. The book does show a hero-worship of Yeats that made it archaic even by the end of the second world war, and any poet who's done the hero-worship thing and then looked back on his early work after growing out of it likely feels the same profound sense of embarrassment. Which is not to say that the work itself is bad, not at all, it just sounds like it was written fifty years earlier than it actually was. (In the Faber edition, Larkin adds a poem written a year or so after the work in The North Ship to show how radically his material had changed in such a short time; it sounds much more Larkin-as-we-knew-him.)
By the time this edition came out, Larkin was already one of the UK's best-known and most-loved poets, and remained so until his passing in 1985; I shouldn't wonder if the republication of this little book turned an entire new generation on to Yeats, and that cannot be a bad thing. While fans of Larkin's later work may find themselves in a bit of a culture shock when they read this, it's definitely worth their time--and yours. *** ½