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on 29 December 2013
A fantastic book even if you don't read the notes which is substantial....if you do then it enhances the experience.
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on 11 April 2013
Bought this for my partner- he loved it. Great read- arrived in perfect condition .A must for Poetry lovers.Thank you
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on 24 January 2012
This thick heavy book weighs approximately one and a half kilos, see product details above. There are 759 pages made up as follows: Introduction pages i-xxx; pages 5-95 poems from the four published books containg almost all Larkin's notable poetry, i.e. pages 5-24 The North Ship; pp25-46 The Less Deceived; pp50-72 The Whitsun Weddings and pages 73-95 High Windows.

Pages 99-120 are taken by other poems published in the poet's lifetime, mainly of interest only in the context of his life's work and reputation. Pages 123-324 are 'Poems not published in the poet's lifetime' - these are taken from letters etc almost entirely occasional verse, often quite funny, occasionally scurrilous. Pages 333 to 671 are editor's notes on individual poems. The remaining pages 675-729 comprise appendices and an index of titles and first lines. There is no general index (it would be too long).

The highly significant XX Poems, an edition of 100 copies Larkin had printed in Belfast in 1951 to circulate to friends and other poets, is covered without enough (for me) detail in the introduction. The Fantasy Press booklet printed in Oxford by Oscar Mellor, only five poems, but again significant in the build up to The Less Deceived, has scant mention. I would have welcomed more information about these two booklets and less quotation from what various critics have had to say about individual poems.

For the general reader there are 90 essential pages in this book. As a work of scholarship the value of the other 600+ requires proper consideration and review. I am glad to have purchased it, yes, all this material should be available for reference. I have loved Larkin's work since someone gave me The Less Deceived in 1956 in the modest neatly designed Marvell Press edition, such a pleasure to read. Now immodestly we have everything. It's a bit of a clunker. I can imagine Larkin's 'poem unpublished in the poet's lifetime' on the subject
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on 20 January 2012
There are likely to be two reasons why you would read a review on this page. Firstly, you may be new to Larkin's poetry and looking for a good guide to his work. Secondly, you may already be familiar with his collection of poems, particularly if you already own some of the previous collections.

With regards to the first point, I would like to keep the review fairly terse. Larkin's poetry is superlative. He can be quite gloomy at times, but never fails to be wonderfully astute and thought provoking. In this collection, you have everything; possibly too much making it, at times, tricky to navigate. Perhaps try some of the earlier collections if this puts you off. The latter half of the book is dedicated to corrections and commentary, which, in some places, can be very detailed. To somebody that is relatively 'green' when it comes to Larkin I would suggest starting with High Windows to get a real taste of his best work.

Focusing on the second point, the additional material when compared to the earlier collections is certainly more extensive. Considering the price tag however, I could understand why people would perhaps only recommend this collection to avid fans. If you are only casually interested in his poetry then go for one of the earlier collections. Despite this, I am pleasantly surprised by the clearly erudite investment that has been put into this new collection and am very glad to have made the purchase.

The book itself is very well made and fairly large. Obviously at 700+ pages it's going to be big but the pages are fairly thick which does add to the expected size. On the plus side however, there is no need to fear this book falling into the all too obvious cliché whereby all the pages soon start falling out - something I've found many other large books succumb to relatively quickly.

In summary, this is a well thought out collection, clearly put together by someone very familiar with Larkin's work, containing large amounts of insightful additional material on top of his COMPLETE work. It may be slightly overwhelming for a newcomer and is obviously more expensive than the other collections out there, but probably for good reason.
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on 7 March 2012
Philip Larkin was a very good poet indeed. Alas, his complete body of work has now been embalmed in this massive tombstone of a book.

Larkin's poetry makes up the first 329 pages. There follows 400 PAGES of editorial commentary, which should never be read by anyone in their right minds least of all lovers of poetry.

Obviously this "scholarly" work is intended for the shelves of university libraries where it can be duly ignored. Faber's edition of the collected poems of Auden does without the academic trappings. Why was it necessary to burden Larkin with all this analysis by exhaustion? Certainly it does not make for an easily-held book let alone an inviting price.

Will Faber & Faber please give the world a reader-friendly edition of Larkin's complete work?
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on 23 June 2013
Imagine the Collected Poems of Yeats (Variorum Edition) combined in a volume with the revised edition of A. Norman Jeffares's "Commentary." That's just about what we've got here for Philip Larkin's poems, and it's possible in one volume because Larkin wrote a lot less than Yeats did. But the publication of this volume marks the acceptance of Larkin fully into the canon -- he's a poet who apparently deserves the full dress treatment of carefully edited texts, notes of textual variants, careful dating of drafts, insofar as that is possible, and contextualization of biographical, cultural, literary, and critical kinds. The editor, Archie Burnett, who as far as I can tell from brief perusal, does a splendid job, is at pains to stress in his Introduction that previous editions of Larkin's poems contained inaccuracies in matters of text and dating and that it is the purpose of his edition to set these matters right. The establishment of that kind of accuracy has always been a rationale for new editions of an author's works, and the only thing that's unusual here is that this is being done on this scale only thirty years or so after Larkin's death. As far as I know, we don't yet have anything like this for, say, Wallace Stevens, or a poet slightly older than Larkin, Robert Lowell (who admired Larkin's work), or slightly younger, like Ted Hughes.

For all that, I'm not complaining. This is a lovely volume (I'm reviewing the paperback edition), and I've long ago learned that I love reading poems with one finger stuck in the back of the book where the notes are and negotiating my way through a poem with the notes as a constant source of information. It's for people like that that this volume was meant, and abbreviations and citations and the minutiae of textual description of accidental features just add to the charm. The only thing that I might wonder about are the critical notes in the Commentary: the comments on the poem "High Windows," for example, reference Mallarme and Ursula K. LeGuin. Do we know that Larkin was familiar with their work? Does it matter if he wasn't? These aren't rhetorical questions -- it would be interesting to know (and Burnett doesn't say). But if answers to such questions aren't forthcoming, then it's possible that some of the notes might, after a while, appear dated. There's going to be a whole lot of writing about Larkin done in the next decade, say. Are we to assume that later editions of this volume will update the notes "to keep up with current scholarship"? It might be better to limit interpretive and intertextual comment in such Commentary to matters where Larkin's acquaintance with the issues and other writers referenced is clearly established. Clearly, Burnett had to be selective in what he put in the Commentary, and one has no quarrel with his decision to cite Larkin's own comments on particular poems and issues, but once we move beyond Larkin to matters that academic critics find of interest, there is a risk of giving speculation (no matter how interesting and thoughtful) a status equal to that of Larkin's own observations. That's not to say that all that Larkin might have to say about this or that poem is to be taken a determinative of its interest for us, but clearly the poet's own words have a weight that critical speculation doesn't quite match. I should add, in fairness to Burnett, that his organization of the items in the Commentary is impressively clear and sensible. The textual and dating comments are clearly distinct from the contextualizing comments.

All in all, though, this is a fine book, nicely printed and easy on the eye, and I'm in no doubt that Larkin is as deserving of this treatment as Byron or Hopkins.
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on 5 May 2012
I have a copy of the early and later collected poems and would certainly welcome a new quality hardcover version of the poems alone. Having said that, whilst the shortcomings of this collection are highlighted in other reviews I have been enjoying the notes and volume edited by Prof Burnett. It is disappointing however that certain poems have the titles missing i.e. Pages 265 and 280 for example. Overall though a very enjoyable new publication on Larkin.
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on 22 October 2014
The poems speak for themselves and it is good to have them all in one place. Burnett's introduction and comments are very interesting and insightful and help in reading and understanding Larkin's work. A must for lover's of his poetry.
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on 9 February 2017
These poems are beautiful and wonderfully written.
Makes Ted Hughes look pedestrian!
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on 10 February 2012
There are many things wrong with this book. I find it odd that Faber would subject Larkin, who felt poets should stay out of the Universities (working in the library didn't count), to an academic volume of his work. The list of people who could have done a better job is long. But the criteria that the person valued the poems 'above all else' should have been top of the list in making a selection. Here the editor gives the game away by presenting the poems - in the definitive collection of Larkin's work - not on separate pages but beneath each other. This is something you might accept reluctantly in an anthology where space is at a premium, but not in this 768 page volume. Larkin, who knew the shape of the poem on the page and knowledge of where the poem will end is essential to the reader, would've been appalled. But worse, the vast majority of this book is given over to notes, nearly three quarters of the book - measured by simply holding open the pages - occurs after reprinting Larkin's four published collections. Granted about a third of this space is for unpublished poems, though they too - despite their obvious worth - must come second to Larkin's own presentation of his poems.

The poems are ruined by being split and running over the page at random (making space for those notes!) and are accompanied by line numbering which is, again, only there to aid our use of the dutiful but dull notes.

This book is a hymn to the editor's own scholarly endeavours: in which Larkin would have wished little interest. Faber is a mainstream publisher which has rarely submitted its big poets to this treatment. If you like the poems, do not buy this book, If you are interested in what Professor Archie Burnett has been up to the last ten years, buy it. The length of the notes and the introduction, which show no affection for the poems, overwhelm Larkin's small corner of his own book and speak volumes about the true nature of Burnett's project.

I returned my edition and recommend the Collected Poems (1988) which is available on the second hand market. If Faber keep an eye on the feedback to their collections, can I ask that they think about bringing out a hardback Larkin for those that love and admire the poems -- the perhaps average reader that Larkin was adamant he wrote for?
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