I was lucky enough to see an episode of the BBC programme Monitor with Philip Larkin and John Betjeman from 1964 that was recently repeated for the BBC’s The Art of Art TV series. I’m a big fan of Philip Larkin and the programme was beautifully filmed in Black and White with some great readings of Larkin’s work and some really lovely conversation between him and Betjeman.
John Betjamin was obviously a lover of Larkin’s poetry and there was a funny conversation about how Betjamin envied Larkin’s ‘other job’ as a librarian – ‘it must be so nice to have something to fall back on’.
They talk about criticism and Philip Larkin says he often gets adverse criticism that derides his work as ‘sub-poetry’ or that he writes about things that are unworthy of poetic words. Larkin then lights a cigarette and says something that I thought captured how I have been feeling about my picture making recently:
‘I wonder if it ever occurs to the writer of criticism like that, that really one agrees with them. What one writes is based so much on the kind of person one is, the kind of environment one has had and has now. One doesn’t really choose the poetry one writes, one writes the kind of poetry one has to write, or one can write.’