Motion pens Larkin paean for cancer charity appeal

The former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion has written a poem in memory of Philip Larkin, the celebrated English poet who died in 1985.

The poem, titled "Legacy", describes some photographs taken by Larkin. One, he writes, features "a young man wearing a trilby hat who has settled / Into a deckchair and seen how manifold kinds of half-light / Can weave a leopard skin rug where a couple lie together".

Motion said the poem's intention was to remind people "to see the miraculous in the ordinary".

It was written for an exhibition entitled Willpower: What's Your Legacy?, which opens on Thursday at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

The exhibition has been curated by Cancer Research UK to highlight the importance of legacies in allowing the charity to continue its work in the fight to beat cancer.

The exhibition also features a poem exploring the contradictions and sincerity of love by the current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a first edition of Simon Callow's 1984 book Being an Actor, and an original hand-drawn illustration by Barbara Hulanicki.

Larkin died of oesophageal cancer at the age of 63, a year after turning down the job of poet laureate.

Motion said: "Philip Larkin's legacy to us is a refreshed sense of the need to see the miraculous in the ordinary. The lines remember that he was a gifted photographer, as well as a great poet – and in both his pictures and his writing he went to great lengths to celebrate things that are easily overlooked."

Larkin is widely considered the greatest English poet since the Second World War. His own legacy includes the notable collections The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows.

The notorious pessimist's best-remembered verse on the subject of legacy, however, is probably the final stanza of "This Be the Verse": "Man hands on misery to man / It deepens like a coastal shelf / Get out as early as you can / And don't have any kids yourself."

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