Philip Larkin standing next to a book case
Philip Larkin is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest post-war poet. Born in Coventry in 1922, he lived the greater part of his working life in Hull, having moved here in his early 30s to take up the post of University Librarian. Larkin’s second collection, The Less Deceived, published by the Hull-based Marvell Press run by Jean and George Hartley, brought him fame in 1955, followed by The Whitsun Weddings in 1964 and High Windows ten years later. (Reference is made to poems from these collections and to other pieces of his work throughout the Trail.)

Larkin was also a distinguished jazz critic, literary critic and a compulsive writer of letters, many of which have now been published. Many more, held by the Larkin Archive in the Hull History Centre (no.11 on the Trail), await publication.
© Larkin25 2024
Whitefriargate, Hull
‘… a place cannot produce poems: it can only not prevent them, and Hull is good at that. It neither impresses nor insists.’

Hull has long had a tradition of being home to celebrated writers and poets, so much so that the Australian writer Peter Porter has described it as ‘the most poetic city in England’. Andrew Marvell, the 17th century metaphysical poet and parliamentarian, grew up here and was educated in the city. Stevie Smith was born in Hull. Much later residents have included Douglas Dunn, Sean O’Brien, Alan Plater, John Godber, and the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, who was also one of Larkin’s close colleagues and went on to become one of his biographers.

Recurring motifs in Larkin’s poetry are often of an abstract nature; isolation, silence, youth, love, death, light and shadow, clouds and sun haunt the poems and letters he wrote whilst living in this city that stands ‘with its back half-turned towards Europe’.

His affinity with ‘elsewhere’ meant that Hull suited him. He was here, yet insisted that place was unimportant. For Larkin, Hull was ‘… a city that is in the world yet sufficiently on the edge of it to have a different resonance’.
Dock Poster
To follow in Larkin’s tracks is to take not only a literary journey, but also journeys through diverse landscapes and rich architecture and, seeing the city through a poet’s eyes, to gain a philosophical view of the place where Larkin lived and worked for three decades.

This diverse Trail takes you on a journey through Larkin’s Hull, which today remains very much ‘a working city, yet one neither clenched in the blackened grip of the industrial revolution nor hiding behind a cathedral to pretend it is York or Canterbury’.

The Larkin Trail consists of three parts- Larkin’s Here (City Centre) starts at Hull’s Paragon Interchange and takes in sites across the city, ending at the Hull History Centre. Larkin’s Here (Beyond the City Centre) enables visitors to explore the fringes of the city, particularly the University and Avenues area where Larkin spent much of his time. Larkin’s Elsewhere encourages an exploration of the wider countryside, celebrated in Larkin’s writing and captured in many of his photographs and letters. Maps, public transport and further visitor information can be found in the Trail Guide section of this website.

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