It is not merely because it is his last collection that High Windows shoulders the burden of Larkin's artistic reputation: it is also his greatest collection. This volume is as maddeningly thin as it is beautiful, and despite containing Larkin's final published pieces, it serves as a splendid introduction to the poet. 'This Be The Verse', for instance, perhaps most typifies (and gratifies) the popular image of Larkin: a poem with doggerel beginnings, which emerges into the splendour of a transcendent final stanza ('Man hands on misery to man...'), only to drop once again into the doggerel voice for the final line ('And don't have any kids yourself'). One of the most honed aspects of Larkin's genius was his manipulation of different tones and registers, over which he shows a Prospero-like control in this collection. If, as has been suggested, Larkin was shooting prospective glances at his own posthumous reputation in High Windows, 'Posterity' suggests it was not without the same withering humour he displayed throughout his career, both as a poet and in his journalism. Now that the urgency of the Larkin debate has thoroughly died down (his 'political incorrectness' was for a while regarded with a seriousness comparable only to Heidegger's Nazism), it is a perfect time to read this poetry as poetry: as the epitome of Larkin's poetic insights, and as the greatest work of one of the last truly original English poets.
35 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?