If ever a person comes up to you and says he doesn’t care for poetry, give him a poem by Philip Larkin. Any poem by Philip Larkin. The sharpness, the wit – they are timeless, all the more so if you consider the loneliness and seclusion which so naturally suited him.
I can’t think of another poet who makes reading poetry such a joyful process. And that’s in spite of his subject matter, so often grim and hopeless. It’s in the language and the ideas.
And yet I don’t read him too often. In my reading experience, Larkin is rather close to another favourite of mine, Saul Bellow. Whenever I read a sentence from Bellow, I want to write and I want to give up writing. Every sentence is a work of art, with a swing and the edge and the weight.
I feel like I shouldn’t do that too often. I want to live it slowly so as to get the full punch in the guts. I want to suck it dry – but it can never be dry. I guess only Larkin, Bellow and maybe Nabokov can do that to me.