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This entirely new edition brings together all of Philip Larkin’s poems. In addition to those that appear in Collected Poems (1988) and Early Poems and Juvenilia (2005), some unpublished pieces from Larkin’s typescripts and workbooks are included, as well as verse—by turns scurrilous, satirical, affectionate, and sentimental—that had been tucked away in his letters.
For the first time, Larkin’s poems are given a comprehensive commentary. This draws critically upon, and substantially extends, the accumulated scholarship on Larkin, and covers closely relevant historical contexts, persons and places, allusions and echoes, and linguistic usage. Prominence is given to the poet’s comments on his own poems, which often outline the circumstances that gave rise to a poem or state what he was trying to achieve. Larkin often played down his literariness, but his poetry enrichingly alludes to and echoes the writings of many others; Archie Burnett’s commentary establishes him as a more complex and more literary poet than many readers have suspected.
"Burnett presents a very different picture of Larkin from the one by which he came to be known; one that is far more literary, and occasionally far more amusing. A reader can now trace Larkin’s development from his allusive [early efforts] . . . to his more mature, better-known works."—The Economist
"The Complete Poems is a must-have for anyone who enjoys Larkin . . . Burnett’s notes offer a fascinating, compendious vade mecum into Larkin’s poetic world. Full of reassuring exactitude about variants, and extensive reference to the poet’s own comments on the work, they are most stimulating of all when they cite buried sources . . . A lot of thought as well as an enormous amount of research has clearly gone into this [volume]."—Fiona Sampson, The Independent
"More often than any other English poet since the war, Larkin gave us lines that it is unlikely we’ll be able to forget."—Ian Hamilton, The Times (London)
"Apart from representing an unprecedented Larkin poetic storehouse, the other glory of The Complete Poems is Burnett’s dazzlingly detailed commentary . . . One of the chief pleasures . . . is tracing the emergence of one of English poetry’s most distinctive poetic voices . . . A landmark volume, a wonder-book of verse by one of the art form’s best practitioners of the last hundred years."—Terry Kelly, The London Magazine
"Larkin is resolute, forthright, witty, and gloomy. This is the man who famously said that deprivation was for him what daffodils were for Wordsworth. Yet surely the results of this life, in the shape of his poems, are gifts, not deprivations."—Donald Hall, The New Criterion
"The poems of British master Philip Larkin, one of the great mid-century poets in English, have had a frustrating life since the death of their author . . . Burnett also includes comprehensive notes. Larkin was a master versifier, but within strict meter and rhyme he could be both disarmingly casual and utterly precise, the only poet capable of turning a kind of grumpiness into transcendent truth telling: 'Death,' he notes, 'is no different whined at than withstood.' This will be an essential book for poetry lovers."—Publishers Weekly
Philip Larkin (1922-1985) grew up in Coventry, England. He was the best-loved poet of his generation and the recipient of innumerable honors, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.
Archie Burnett is co-director of the Editorial Institute and professor of English at Boston University. He has edited the Oxford editions of The Poems of A. E. Housman and The Letters of A. E. Housman.