High Windows
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High Windows

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  670 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Larkin's final collection of poems shows, as does all his best work, his ability to adapt contemporary speech rhythms and everyday vocabulary to subtle metrical patterns and poetic forms. Many of the poems in the collection, which includes some of his best-known pieces ('The Old Fools', 'This Be the Verse', 'The Explosion', and the title poem) show the preoccupation with d...more
Paperback, 48 pages
Expected publication: November 6th 2014 by Faber & Faber (first published 1974)
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Before I developed my own politics I loved Larkin, for his way with words and ability to tug the heartstrings with maudlin reflections. He's got some great lines. But I can't read him now; he looks down on people too much, he's too conventional, too conservative, too narrowly, comfortably English. Of course, most of the time he isn't comfortable, he's reflecting on time and death, its spectre at the back of everything, but that's quite facile, he just drops it in, cleverly, at the right moment t...more
Steve Alker
I loved these poems. High Windows itself is suddenly heart lifting. The family favourite, by dint of the language though has to be This be the Verse, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad----"! Brilliant.
Deborah Schuff
This slim book is filled with profound thoughts of aging and life in general but written in the profane words of ordinary humans. Philip Larkin is an amazing poet.
Jonathon Izzard
Bleak but it always rings true. A firm favourite poet. Always.
It is thanks to my Uncle Jürgen that I read this collection, as he had said he could never 'get warm' with Larkin, and I'm not surprised. I'd heard he had a propensity to steal all the covers, and on top of this has of course been dead for the last 26 years. So quite a chilly fellow indeed. Ok woefully poor jokes aside, Larkin writes of bleak things unflinchingly. In 'The Old Fools' he looks at the dribbling retarded imbeciles our parents become and wonders whether people like this are aware of...more
High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the...more
Moira McPartlin
I had been looking forward to reading Philip Larkin for a long time because I had heard he was a great poet, but I was disappointed in this collection. The poems are good, his lines are wonderful, but I didn't like them. He came across to me as a stuck-up grumpy and bitter old man and I couldn't get past that.
I have always enjoyed Philip Larkin's poetry so I decided to do my dissertation on him, and now, approaching the end of it, I love him even more. I can't really explain why I like him so much, but I do and he is, for me, the greatest poet of the modern world.
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

This must be one of the great stanzas in poetry.
I was a little familiar with Larkin before these but not much beyond "This be the verse". It's a superb collection. Often melancholy; set against the backdrop of England in post war decline - an England I vaguely remember as being a young child in the 80s when nothing happened on Sundays, the England that morrisey sung about, thatcher killed and Blair buried (see Larkin rail against commercialism in "Going, going"); and the downcast mood is pierced with larkin's brilliant insights about English...more
Truly bittersweet...how can anyone weave such great humour with the everyday sadness of life lived at arm's length?
Matthew Aldridge
It's good, but it's no Alien vs Predator.
Robert Beveridge
Philip Larkin, High Windows (Faber, 1974)

Larkin, the celebrated librarian-poet, got somewhat cranky in his middle age. He also got more experimental, both qualities that make for fine poetry. Add to these scurrilousness, a wicked sense of humor, and an ear for rhythm matched only in the modern world's finest poets, and you have a recipe for greatness.

So why doesn't Larkin always pull it off? Good question. When he's on, he's very, very on, but when he's off, it's a mess. Unlike most poets, Larki...more
Courtney Johnston
This is the one with those poems: 'Annus Mirabilis'

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

and 'This Be The Verse'

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

For me, these are almost like a composer who slaves away for decades on little-known works, but has ear-fame for writing radio jingles: catchy...more
Ryan Dejonghe
Philip Larkin’s HIGH WINDOWS came as a recommendation on a list entitled “25 books to read before you’re 21”. That should have been my warning.

HIGH WINDOWS retains the same “ironic undertones” known of Larkin, but in this last book of poetry prior to his death, his poems take on a dark and juvenile influence. The bound volume of poems starts innocently enough with “To the Sea”, but follows with a story of casual drinking at a funeral in “Sympathy in White Major”, eventually proceeding to using t...more
This is a great little edition of High Windows from Faber and Faber, my favorite of Larkin's books. Having read him originally in his first collected edition (ISBN 0374522758), arranged chronologically, it was a real pleasure to be able to read through the book he created, and not just the poems he wrote. Besides the title poem (one of my true favorites), this collection also contains the oft quoted "This Be The Verse," ("They fuck you up, your mum and dad") though read against such poems "Homa...more
Rob Blackmore
Philip Larkin's third and final anthology of his poems contains some fine and thoughtful verse.

As it's Larkin, this is never going to be a barrel of laughs, but there is humour (albeit dry and sarcastic). The poem 'The Trees' (nearly) verges on the sunny side, and his description of pouring a G&T in 'Sympathy in White Major' makes you want to reach for the Gordons and Schweppes.

When I drop four cubes of ice
Chimingly in a glass, and add
Three goes of gin, a lemon slice,
And let a ten-ounce to...more
R.J. Lynch
The famous ones are here but, as I grow older, it's The Old Fools that holds my attention most with that killer last line, "Well, we shall find out." Larkin is one of that tiny handful of writers who have changed my life and for knowledge of whom I am grateful.
Gabriela Raleva
At poetry in general, I'm like "pshaw" probably cuz I know nothing about it. But I'm not "pshaw" at that poems. I can honestly say that this is some of the most badass poetry ever might occur. Hey,do you guys do lines? Want to do a line? OK,this book "review" is about as cramped as bathroom stall,but I just like cutting lines and giving them to people. Here's one form High Windows:

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this i...more
Andrew Kunka
This was one of the most formative books of poetry that I read in my undergraduate days as an English major. I've probably memorized more poems and lines from this book per capita than any other collection by a single poet. As a 20-year-old English major, I probably appreciated these poems most for the swearing and the social satire. In my forties, I now appreciate Larkin's generational perspective, especially in the poems "High Windows" and "Annus Mirabilis," and how that perspective resists no...more
Even though I quite liked a few of the poems in this collection, I found the overall tone to be rather soul-less. Larkin focuses on describing small, everyday scenarios, but the reader can tell that he is describing these scenes from a distance. The only poems that I felt his voice was connected to were "the Old Fools," "This be the verse," and "Annus Mirabilis." All three poems were truthful and a touch sarcastic, and they seems to touch on common themes in the human experience that anyone shou...more
Leanne Hanson
Larkin was a cranky miserable sod and I love him for it. Not every poem in this collection is awesomely brilliant -- though none are bad -- but the ones that stand out will stay with you forever, particularly "High Windows", "The Old Fools" and of course "This Be The Verse" (the first poem we got to study at school which had the f word in it, so obviously it became the most quoted). Larkin is always high on my list of imaginary dinner guests, though I wouldn't take him to a posh restaurant.
A must-have, this was like reading an amazingly detailed picture book, vivid and funny and poignant and clever and tragic and unbelievably musical. Formal poetry is put to its greatest uses here, and it doesn't read as "formal" at all, just superbly well done. This small book carries immense weight and covers a tremendous range of human thought and experience. I am blown away. Before this, I think I'd only read a few of Larkin's poems here and there, but now I have to read everything. Amazing.
In "Sad Steps," a view of the moon at night leads the speaker to reflect on the inevitable dulling of life through aging. The moon is no longer a "lozenge of love" but only a painful reminder of what has already been lost. Larkin unflinchingly faces the inevitability and meaninglessness of death and aging and the boredom and tedium of adult social interaction in this collection. Well worth your while.
I like this guy; often bleak and beautiful at the same time.

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
the hardness and the brightness and the plain
far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
is a reminder of the strength and pain
of being young; that it can't come again,
but is for others undiminished somewhere.

From "sad steps"
"The Old Fools" makes me feel RILLY SAD. Also a generally lovely collection, & I think more consistent than Whitsun Weddings, which for me is largely good because of "An Arundel Tomb." Larkin is like your curmudgeonly great uncle who you never call on the phone but sort of enjoy hearing be a bastard at family gatherings.
Larkin was an exquisite craftsman, possibly the best of the second half of the twentieth Century. This collection is a distillation of his verse that is so intense I'd wager to say that not loving it completely only means you are not a fan of poetry in English. Perfect and essential.
Chris Lilly
Crude, ungenerous, bitterly reactionary, And occasionally suffused with a grace and brilliance, and a joy in craftsmanship. The last collection, published while I was at Hull. Didn't like him, don't like this, except when, just occasionally, he shows what an amazing poet he could be.
Stef Smulders
A nice read, relatively easy, but also a bit disappointing in the end. There are quite a few poems in here, Going going e.g. that do not really deserve it. So quality level is very variable. At his best Larkin succeeds in writing memorable verses though.
Fusty, drinking, mid aged, British English professor waxes bawdy about the unencumbered erotic freedoms of his students and other topics.

Great poem begins with the line:

They fuck you up, mum and dad...
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Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL, was an English poet, novelist and jazz critic. He spent his working life as a university librarian and was offered the Poet Laureateship following the death of John Betjeman, but declined the post. Larkin is commonly regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century. He first came to prominence with the release of his thi...more
More about Philip Larkin...
Collected Poems The Whitsun Weddings Jill A Girl in Winter The Less Deceived

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“Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.”
“The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke...
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.”
More quotes…