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Philip Larkin

2001 English HL

Paper II – Prescribed Poetry

3. Write an essay in which you outline your reasons for liking and/or not liking the poetry of Philip Larkin.

As a teenager in the Ireland of 2014, my experience of poetry has really only been in the context of being ‘forced’ to study different poems and poets as preparation for various exams. I can’t say that I’ve always found the experience enjoyable. A lot of the time I’ve found the language dense and difficult. So, when I came across Larkin and his poetry – with its everyday accessible language – I was delighted. His most endearing characteristics, in my opinion, are his ability to chronicle ordinary lives in ordinary situations, and to make them engaging, interesting and moving despite using ordinary, if poetically constructed, language. I really found myself starting to admire his ability to step back from the subjects he writes about, but to still treat them with feeling. Larkin could be said to balance the world of Irish poetry, as he often tackles the darker facets of human life, his poems habitually examining life in the face of oncoming death.

The first Larkin poem I studied was the poem ‘Ambulances’. I immediately discovered that Larkin’s poetry resonated with me. In this poem, Larkin examines ambulances and everything they represent. The ambulance becomes a symbol for the arbitrariness of death. “Closed like confessionals, they thread loud noons of cities, giving back none of the glances they absorb.” In the first line of this poem, Larkin is implying that the ambulance has become the modern day confessional. The comparison also lends a spiritual and reverent air to the ambulances, giving them an otherworldly air. The colour of the ambulance is a "light glossy grey," and it has a plaque with the emergency services coat of arms on the side. Personally, I loved this detailed description, and I thought that it fitting that the ambulance is painted grey, because ambulances often serve as the grey area between life a...

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