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Philip Larkin

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This book sets jazz in its rightful place at the centre of Larkin’s intellectual and creative life. Previous biographers and critics have tended to see jazz as merely one of Larkin’s recreations; marginal to his most serious work. His relationship with jazz tells a vivid and complex story that illuminates both his biography and his creative work, and makes new connections between the two. Larkin’s love affair with jazz was both faithful and deeply rewarding, and endured from adolescence to the grave. This will be the first critical and biographical study devoted to that relationship.

In a life marked by professional success and public acclaim, but at times troubled by painfully difficult relationships with friends, lovers, and even poetry itself, jazz provided both consolation and inspiration. Jazz was the subject of a large proportion of his critical prose; jazz gave him specific formal ideas that structured key poems; jazz at its best was a model to which he believed all arts should aspire.

For readers and for cultural historians, Larkin’s relationship with jazz is a prism that shines light into all corners of his work, and also into the history of jazz, verse, modernism, Anglo-American cultural politics, post-colonial politics, and beyond.

Published: Mar 1, 2024