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Desert Island Discs

Philip Larkin

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Philip Larkin – back in the news thanks to a new book by John Sutherland – only became a poet by accident, he told Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs back in 1976. “I always thought I should be a novelist.” After a couple of novels, however, Larkin decided his prose wasn’t up to much. “I had to fall back on poems.”

It was a good fallback. Larkin went on to become one of England’s most famous poets, receiving honorary doctorates and the Queen’s Gold Medal. “Well, they have to go to somebody, you know.”

The secret to his work was finding a balance between simplicity and depth. “I think that a poem should be understood, at first reading, line by line. But I don’t think it should be exhausted at first reading. I hope that what I write gives the reader something when they read it first. Enough, in fact, to make them read it again.”

Listen to the full episode here.

🎵 Dallas Blues, Louis Armstrong

🎵 Dollia, Louis Killen

🎵 Spem in alium, Thomas Tallis

🎵 I’m Down in the Dumps, Bessie Smith

🎵 Coventry Carol, St George’s Canzona

🎵 Symphony No 1 in A flat major, Elgar

🎵 These Foolish Things, Billie Holiday

🎵 O praise the Lord (Chandos Anthem No 9), Handel

🎁 Typewriter and paper

📕 The collected works of George Bernard Shaw