For Zulfikar Ghose, Philip Larkin was “an utter mediocrity”

Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin

In “COLUMN: Nationalism and the individual artist”Zulfikar Ghose, a Consulting Editor for Interlitq, and a contributor to Issue 3 of Interlitq, writes:

“Early in the 20th-century a number of poets in London called themselves Imagists and attracted much attention, but the poets we continue to read from that period are three free-floating individuals: Yeats, Eliot and Auden. In mid-20th-century England, Philip Larkin emerged as the common man’s poet, the sort of decent chap who made no apology for being ordinary and was without the pretension of the poets who looked to the Continent to boost their inspiration. He wanted to remain plain English, see? Parochial poetry written in pedantic verse paraded across England and given a national standing ovation: an utter mediocrity.

Larkin received high estimation because a sentimental public loved what he flaunted as his Englishness, and it is only now, a good half a century later, that scholars are beginning to show that the real poets of that time were two who had quietly pursued the compulsions of their individuality, which had little to do with England and everything with the art of poetry: Basil Bunting and Christopher Middleton. This is what happens when literature is associated with gleeful nationalist sentiments: like the mob at a football match, people wave flags, and no matter how inferior the performance, remain drunk with nationalist pride, and keep loudly cheering on their hero though he keeps missing the goal with each shot.”


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