|Philip Larkin with his Rolleiflex, 1957|
Philip Larkin as a shutterbug? It’s a surprising revision of the reclusive Larkin image. Nevertheless, it’s a fact, as reported by Lev Mendes in his fascinating "Philip Larkin's Life Behind the Camera" (newyorker.com, “Page-Turner,” January 29, 2016). Mendes describes Larkin roaming the countryside, taking pictures with his Rolleiflex. He writes, “Rather than a poet committed to monkish isolation and routine, Larkin the photographer appears as an eager traveller through Britain and Ireland, with [Monica] Jones often in tow.” According to Mendes, Larkin took at least five thousand pictures, two hundred of which have now been assembled for the first time in a book titled The Importance of Elsewhere.
I write poems to preserve things I have seen/thought/felt (if I may so indicate a composite and complex experience) both for myself and for others, though I feel my prime responsibility is to the experience itself, which I am trying to keep from oblivion for its own sake. Why I should do this I have no idea, but I think the impulse to preserve lies at the bottom of all art.