Reconsidering Philip Larkin.

Reading between the lines.
May 27 2004 4:00 PM

The Poet of Dirty Words

History takes a second look at Philip Larkin.

(Continued from Page 1)

A perfect Collected Poems of Philip Larkin would reprint all four of his books, followed by uncollected, and then by unpublished, writings, from undergraduate writings through the last papers; standard editions of several modern poets (such as Wallace Stevens) follow just that pattern. Instead, we have two different unsatisfactory books. (Rumor has it that in Britain both will remain in print.) With poems in Larkin's own orderings, the new edition makes the surest introduction to him. Yet to find the strength and pain of being Larkin undiminished, readers will need to track down the older book too.

Stephen Burt is a poet and critic and a professor of English at Harvard.

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