Philip Larkin’s HIGH WINDOWS came as a recommendation on a list entitled “25 books to read before you’re 21”. That should have been my warning.
HIGH WINDOWS retains the same “ironic undertones” known of Larkin, but in this last book of poetry prior to his death, his poems take on a dark and juvenile influence. The bound volume of poems starts innocently enough with “To the Sea”, but follows with a story of casual drinking at a funeral in “Sympathy in White Major”, eventually proceeding to using the “F word” to describe teenage intercourse in the poem sharing the same title as the book.
Larkin’s work may have been edgy when it was published in 1974, but reading through these poems today feels forced. No doubt Larkin pushed the boundaries of literature and poetry when this volume was published, but while his poems remain clever, they are a bit confusing by today’s standards.
Younger readers may appreciate Larkin’s HIGH WINDOWS. However, for a more evolved, modern, and emotional selection of poems, I highly recommend Ted Kooser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning DELIGHTS & SHADOWS.