25 years since the death of esteemed English poet Philip Larkin, a local dealer has discovered a notebook, containing a variety of his poems that are as yet unpublished and largely unseen. The poems, sent to his lover and secretary, Betty Mackereth, have been the cause of great surprise and excitement for many, including Sir Andrew Motion, former poet laureate and author of Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life, who claims them to be “a complete revelation”
Tonight at 8pm will be the national debut of ‘Dear Jake’, one of the hidden poems. The documentary will be broadcast on BBC Four, and includes an interview with Mackereth, 87, addressing the equally unknown nature of their relationship. As she takes Andrew Motion through, what are now referred to as ‘The Betty Poems’, she will be reading poems from Christmas and Valentines Day cards that date back to 1976.
The debut of the broadcast, however, was handed over to the BBC’s branch in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire – Larkin’s adopted county – and took place last Sunday. Born and bred in Coventry, Larkin graduated from Oxford University, and not long after, in 1955, moved to Hull taking up the post as librarian. Maintaining this position for thirty years, it was there that Larkin wrote the best part of his published work.
Over two decades later, the residents of Hull are paying homage to Larkin’s life and work, which have become a symbol of pride for the East Yorkshire city, and the broadcast acted as one of the many commemorations. Larkin25, a project that has been running throughout this year, has seen a vast number of activities and events commemorating the poet. Some examples include the printing of his poems on local buses, the installation of metre-high decorated toad sculptures around Hull (in reference to his poems ‘Toad’ and ‘Toad Revisited’), and a series of creative essays on Larkin’s writing on music by Guardian writer, John Harris.
However, with Andrew Motion’s investigation in tonight’s program, this anniversary has moved from a simple commemoration, to a significant anniversary in itself, as we watch certain gaps in the biographer’s knowledge being pieced together.
Click here to watch ‘Philip Larkin and the Third Woman’ on BBC iPlayer