A Difficult Home:Work, Love and Community in the Poetry of W.S. Graham and Philip Larkin

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-561
Number of pages36
JournalEnglish Studies
Issue number5
Early online date14 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2013
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The appearance of W.S. Graham’s The Nightfishing and Philip Larkin’s The Less Deceived in the same year, 1955, has been seen by critics as marking the moment when the experimental poetry of the 1940s, represented by Graham, was displaced in British poetry by Larkin’s conservative anti-modernism. This account depends on a reading of Graham and Larkin as diametrically opposed; however, the present paper shows, through a comparison of their two careers, that they had many affinities, both personal and artistic. It then looks at each of the 1955 collections, emphasizing the two poets’ treatment of the themes of work, love and community. Each saw himself as an outsider, and sought in his writing both to justify his position, and to compensate for it by creating a fictive community, “a difficult home”, in his poetry.