Morose, melancholic - but Larkin is favourite

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The Independent Online

Philip Larkin, a man renowned for his misanthropic and angry verses, was crowned yesterday as Britain's favourite poet of the past 50 years.

He came top of a nationwide poll of poets compiled by the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Library to mark their 50th anniversaries.

Larkin, who died of cancer at the age of 64 in 1985, was also voted number one in the top 10 list of poems, with "The Whitsun Weddings".

In being named the favourite poet, Larkin managed to beat his rival Ted Hughes, who was appointed poet laureate when Larkin refused the post. Hughes was in joint second place alongside his wife Sylvia Plath, followed by Seamus Heaney, R S Thomas, W H Auden and T S Eliot.

The rankings were voted on by more than 800 people attending poetry festivals.

"The Whitsun Weddings", of 1964, describes a trip from Hull to London during which the speaker observes a succession of dull wedding guests.

Other poems on the list included "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith, "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath and "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver.

T S Eliot, who set up the Poetry Book Society in 1953, is the seventh most popular poet in the past 50 years, according to the poll.


1 The Whitsun Weddings Philip Larkin, above

2 Prayer Carol Ann Duffy

3 Not Waving But Drowning Steve Smith

4 Digging Seamus Heaney

5= A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford Derek Mahon Warning Jenny Joseph

7 Aubade Philip Larkin

8= Daddy Sylvia Plath Valentine Carol Ann Duffy

10 Wild Geese Mary Oliver