On what, had he survived, would be Philip Larkin's 90th birthday, the historian Sean Street explores this much-loved poet's relationship with the radio. In his poem 'Broadcast', which ends this programme, Larkin tries pick out the particular clapping of a lover in the applause of the entire audience in a 'vast' hall.
The poet was listening to a concert such as this evening's broadcast and this inspired one of the finest and most poignant poems of the second half of the 20th century. In 'Livings II' he writes that 'Radio rubs its legs,/ Telling me of elsewhere'. This 'elsewhere' is a major theme in his work and radio both an apt metaphor, and a conduit to it.
But his relationship with radio was complicated. In 'Mr Bleaney' there is a set 'jabbering', he seems to think, inanities. And Philip Larkin, when he read on the radio himself, memorably remarked that this was his first experience of speaking to such a large audience and, "if I have anything to do with it, my last." Though a reluctant broadcaster, Larkin was a great listener, not least to music programmes.
Using the poems, his letters, archive recordings, jazz and the thoughts and recollections of Larkin's friend and biographer Andrew Motion, Sean Street reveals the importance of of the radio and of the act of listening to Philip Larkin's life and poetry.
Producer: Julian May.