In Depth

Philip Larkin and his poems: a prickly writer ascends to Poets' Corner

Larkin will join such luminaries as Wordsworth and Chaucer in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey

Philip Larkin is to be the latest addition to Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. 

The Oxford graduate, who spent 30 years working as a librarian at Hull University, will have a floor stone dedicated to him and unveiled on 2 December 2016, the 31st anniversary of his death.

According to The Guardian, the announcement comes after church leaders said they were willing to overlook his spiky persona and forthright views on religion.

Professor Edwin Dawes, the chair of the Phillip Larkin society, welcomed the news, saying: "We are delighted that in 2016 Larkin will take his place at the very cultural heart of the nation, in Westminster Abbey amongst Britain's greatest writers."

Who was Phillip Larkin?

The poet was born in Coventry in 1922 and first published in 1940. His dissection of post-war Britain  marked him out as one of the country's finest, and most popular, poets. He is perhaps best known for The Whitsun Weddings and This Be The Verse, the latter of which was among the top 100 poems selected in a BBC poll in 1996.

Despite the praise afforded to him throughout his life, Larkin mostly shunned the limelight, turning down the position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, as well as an OBE in 1968 and the role of Poet Laureate just one year before his death in 1985. The posthumous publication of a series of Larkin's letters in 1992 blighted his reputation and brought accusations of racism and misogyny. Despite this, in 2003 he was chosen as Britain's best-loved poet of the past 50 years in a nationwide study by the Poetry Book Society. In 2008, The Times named him Britain's greatest post-war writer.

What is Poets' Corner? 

Poets' Corner is the name given to a section of Westminster Abbey that commemorates a number of poets, playwrights and other writers who have made their mark on British culture. The Dean of Westminster has the final decision on who is allowed in, having sought – or been offered – advice from a range of cultural commentators.

The tradition was started when Geoffrey Chaucer was interred there in 1556. He had died more than 150 years previously, and other poets, like Larkin have been honoured some time after their death. Lord Byron died in 1824 but wasn't commemorated until 1969, while the most recent memorial in Poets' Corner, dedicated to the writer CS Lewis in 2013, came 50 years after his death.

Phillip Larkin's Poems

Larkin reads This Be The Verse
Larkin reads An Arundel Tomb

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