30 October 2012

Funny how hard it is

It's dangerous to liken lyric poetry to an extended aphorism, but that's how I would describe most of the lyric verse I've read and loved. They speak the (my) truth — generally and specifically. To try putting it in another way— It's rare that I find poetry wherein I could say, 'I can relate to that,' 'That is what's happening to me right now,' 'It touches me.'

That rarity is Philip Larkin.

While other poems have but an absolute voice, Larkin's have a face and a world that I, too, inhabit.
Vers de Société
Philip Larkin

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch
Who’s read nothing but Which;
Just think of all the spare time that has flown

Straight into nothingness by being filled
With forks and faces, rather than repaid
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,
And looking out to see the moon thinned
To an air-sharpened blade.
A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

All solitude is selfish. No one now
Believes the hermit with his gown and dish
Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish
Is to have people nice to you, which means
Doing it back somehow.
Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

Playing at goodness, like going to church?
Something that bores us, something we don’t do well
(Asking that ass about his fool research)
But try to feel, because, however crudely,
It shows us what should be?
Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—
So maybe a confession. The year's calendar is filled with projects, meetings, and parties — things to do and things to do with other people, because the alternative is loneliness. I revel in being alone freely, yet I also desire good company, which is getting more and more difficult to come by.

Top Shelf