16 May 2008
A previously unknown poem by Philip Larkin has been recently discovered by the Bodleian Library. The short poem was written on the back of a birthday card featuring an 1831 engraving of Goodwood races. It came to the Library together with the collection of more than 2,000 letters sent by Larkin to his friend and confidante, Monica Jones.
The poem’s tone, theme and use of language are strongly reminiscent of some of his finest work, written in the early 1960s and published in The Whitsun Weddings. Echoes of particular phrases from well know poems such as Here, MCMXIV and To the Sea can be heard in the poem.
Christopher Fletcher, Head of Western Manuscripts, said: ‘Discovering the manuscript of a Larkin poem marks a red letter day for any Librarian. The visual context of the poem is significant because it shows Larkin responding imaginatively to an artistic image, perhaps introducing us to a new aspect of the poet’s creative technique.’
The collection reveals further details about the composition of some of other Larkin’s poems. One postcard of a Bodleian Medieval Manuscript featuring a picture of the sign of the Zodiac for Leo features Larkin’s handwritten text of the poem Long Lion Days, revealing for the first time the direct visual source for his inspiration.
The letters are currently being catalogued and a selection by Anthony Thwaite will be published by Faber and Faber in association with the Bodleian Library.
Picture: Copyright The Estate of Philip Larkin