20’s. Although he was never able toncomplete a third, he managed to bringnto his poetry the novelist’s gift forncreating a palpable, recognizable worldnthrough scrupulous rendering of thenlook and feel of things. Often hisnpoems present themselves as scenes.nThrough his eyes we see, for instance,nthe center of Hull, where:n. . . residents from raw estates,nbrought downnThe dead straight miles bynstealing flat-faced trolleys.nPush through plate-glass swingndoors to their desires —nCheap suits, red kitchen-ware,nsharp shoes, iced lollies.nElectric mixers, toasters,nwashers, driers . . .n(“Here”)nOr we are shown the summer weddingnparties, “grinning and pomaded,” wavingnnewly married couples off at railroadnstations:nThe fathers with broad beltsnunder their suitsnAnd seamy foreheads, mothersnloud and fat;nAn uncle shouting smut; andnthen the perms.nThe nylon gloves andnjewelry-substitutes . . .n(“The Whitsun Weddings”)nMany of the settings are less animated,nbut just as memorable. There is thenempty country church where the agnosticntourist, at a loss, makes a kind ofninventory:nAnother church: matting, seats,nand stone.nAnd little books; sprawlingsnof flowers, cutnFor Sunday, brownish now;nsome brass and stufl-nUp at the holy end; the small,nneat organ;nAnd a tense, musty, unignorablensilence.nBrewed God knows how long.n(“Church Coing”)nAnd there is a near-deserted provincialnhotel, in which the loneliness is grimmer:nThrough open doors, the diningnroom declaresnA larger loneliness ofnknives and glassn30/CHRONICLESnAnd silence laid like carpet.nA porter readsnAn unsold evening paper.nHours pass.nAnd all the salesmen have gonenback to Leeds,nLeaving full ashtrays in thenConference Room.n(“Friday Night in the RoyalnStation Hotel”)nFor his English readers Larkin capturednsuch scenes in all their bustling or sadnfamiliarity; for American readers unfamiliarnwith the ambience the writingnnevertheless has the documentary claritynof photography. Although his concernsnin writing were not primarilynsocial ones, Larkin’s poetry offers anseries of vignettes that coalesce in ancompelling portrait of postwar England.nThe years of digging out from the Blitz,nthe shabbiness of economic austerity,nthe disillusionment attendant on thenloss of empire and the bureaucraticnsprawl of the welfare state — all thesenare implicit, giving depth to his descriptions.nSurely one of his claims upon hisnpublic has been his ability to mirror sonaccurately the times and places they andnhe knew so well.nAll that being said, Larkin’s writingnis most intense when it addressesnhis personal preoccupations. In a queernway it seems right to call him a confessionalnpoet, although the term was notngenerally applied to him in his lifetime.nConfessional poetry is in most people’snminds linked with such poets as Lowell,nBerryman, and Plath, who offer ostensiblynunvarnished accounts of nervousnbreakdowns, alcoholism, adulteries, suicidenattempts, and the like. Granted,nLarkin has nothing so dramatic to revealnabout himself. But if confessionalismnmeans laying one’s own flaws, disaffections,nor malaise open to view, this isnprecisely what he did, in poem afternpoem, and he did so without indulgingnin the heroic postures favored by thenpoets mentioned above. The persona innhis work is not a doomed genius but annordinary man with troubles so ordinarynthat they have rarely before figurednlargely as poetic subjects. Solitude, partlynwilled, partly accidental, is one of hisnmost problematic topics. Many piecesnare framed as arguments with himselfnabout his decision to remain single in ansociety that revolves around marriage.nnnPeering through a window at couplesnstrenuously enjoying themselves at andance, he is estranged in outlook asnsomeone from another planet:nWhy be out here?nBut then, why be in there?nSex, yes, but whatnIs sex? Surely, to think thenlion’s sharenOf happiness is found byncouples—sheernInaccuracy, as far as I’mnconcerned.n(“Reasons for Attendance”)nA stanza from the little poem “Wants”nstates the position with startling bluntness:nBeyond all this, the wish to benalone:nHowever the sky grows darknwith invitation-cardsnHowever we follow the printedndirections of sexnHowever the family isnphotographed under thenflagstaff—nBeyond all this, the wish to benalone.nOther poems disclose, or ironicallyncelebrate, a temperament governed bynemotional depletion or timidity — anpsychological equivalent, really, of thenpinched, exhausted atmosphere of thenEngland in which he came of age.nLarkin prides himself on avoiding then”bad habits of expectancy” he sees in sonmany people, even as he laments hisnunadventurous willingness to “let thentoad work / Squat on my life,” or notesnthe relentless passage of time:nLife is first boredom, then fear.nWhether or not we use it,nit goes.nAnd leaves what somethingnhidden from us chose.nAnd age, and then thenonly end of age.n(“Dockery and Son”)nThis candor in confronting the occasionlessnunhappiness that in most peoplenremains submerged and inarticulatenis very likely another reason for Larkin’snpopularity. In a culture numbed bynsensationalism the ordinariness of thisnmelancholy arrests attention, and sondoes the poet’s tone: not histrionicallyntragic, but plainspokenly stoical. Hisn