Further Requirements: Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements and Reviews, 1952-85
by Philip Larkin
(Faber & Faber, 2001, 416 pages)
I read and reviewed Philip Larkin’s Required Writings not long ago. Further Requirements is another collection of essays, addresses, interviews, reviews, and transcripts of radio broadcasts. While Required Writing was the last of Larkin’s books published in his lifetime, Further Requirements is a posthumous release of similar material. Larkin’s self-effacing humor is evident throughout, particularly in the interviews. His literary reviews and book forewords reveal a frustrated novelist (Larkin wrote two novels in his early twenties and then found himself unable to write anymore) with a love for the form. His broadcasts for the BBC show a concern for the public appreciation of literature that is appropriate for a career librarian.
It is in Larkin’s comments on poetry, however, that the value of this collection really comes through. For someone who disdained talking about the process of writing or interpreting poetry, Larkin has some awfully good things to say about the subject. He explains the situation of the poet in this way: “The poet is perpetually in that common human condition of trying to feel a thing because he believes it, or believe a thing because he feels” (15). Larkin’s practical and unfussy approach to poetry comes through when he says, “I seem to have spent my life waiting for poems to turn up…writing isn’t an act of the will, all you can do is try to make sure that when something does arrive, you aren’t too tired or too busy or anything else to do it justice” (92). Larkin was not a particularly prolific poet, and his time was divided between his writing and his professional duties. I’m particularly grateful that he wasn’t too tired or busy to do justice to these wonderful pieces of writing.