Larkin is renowned for taking familiar landmarks and transferring them by his ludicrous outlook, which in turn engages the reader. It can be challenged that a place used in Larkin’s poetry does not evoke feeling, but it’s the familiar aspect that Larkin presents. Larkin evocates significance of place in his poetry by means of style, structure and language. This can be seen in ‘Importance of Elsewhere’, ‘Home is so sad’ and ‘Here’, were Larkin uses objects, which establish settings to create feeling.
‘Here’ was written in 1961 and was originally entitled the ‘The Withdrawing Room’; both ‘Here’ and the old title indicate the importance of place to Larkin, in terms of belonging. The title of ‘Home is so sad’ also indicates the importance of place in a more negative tone, and indicates the importance of identity through place. The title also indicates Larkin’s use of urban cities negatively. ‘The importance of elsewhere’, also evocates ‘place’ and challenges conventional living. ‘Home is so sad’ begins with a negative simple sentence, “Home is so sad”.
This instantly indicates the negative tone of the poem and points out Larkin’s lack of belonging. The poem employs several simple sentences for dramatic effect, these also emphasise the negativity within the poem. The simple sentences could also be interpreted as demonstrating frustration of the poet. “The music in the piano stool. That vase. ” These appear to employ an aggressive tone through bluntness. Larkin’s negative language such as, “long fallen wide” and “how things ought to be”, could also be used to demonstrates the ideas of a failed romantic, which is a predominate idea within the collection.
The word ‘ought’ effectively sums up the present negativity and could also be interpreted as demonstrating how modernisation has changed places for the worse. Larkin had an extreme hatred for modernisation and urban cities. He saw modernisation as a way of ridding places of their mystery and ruining them by replacing it with routine, structure and repetition. It can also be inferred than Larkin hated cities as he lived in Coventry during the Blitz which had an emotional effect on him and consequently he saw cities and unstable and vulnerable.
Another poem employing the idea of urban cities destroying a pastoral place is, ‘The importance of Elsewhere’. In this poem he discusses Ireland as not being corrupted into routine by modernisation, “Since it was not home, strangeness made sense”. Larkin employs an inversion on language by stating, “Strangeness made sense”. This could be interpreted as symbolises the nature of his displacement of how he has no identity there. Larkin’s lose of identity can also be interpreted by the irregular rhyming pattern as it demonstrates his irregular identity which changes with place, representing the significance of place.
However, it could also be symbolising how the mystery in Ireland makes more sense than routine in the cities. Therefore the poem is employing critical ideas of conventional life. This links with ‘Home is so sad’, where Larkin states, “Home is so sad” which is an inversion as home is supposed to be our comfort place. ‘Importance of elsewhere’ employs imagery on the basis of senses such as hearing, “The salt rebuff of speech”, sight “Their draughty streets… “, smell “The faint archaic smell” and touch “… We were in touch”.
This allows for realism within the poem thus making the imagery more effective. It can also be interpreted that when describing a place Larkin uses the reader’s senses to create imagery to input an emotive response within the reader by familiarity. ‘Here’ also includes a contrast between the urban city and pastoral. In stanza two Larkin vividly creates a sense of place by packed observation and detail. Larkin describes the city as, “Raw”, “Cheap” and “Sharp”. These enforce Larkin’s negative view of the city as a place.
Structurally ‘Here’ is significant as Larkin describes the pastoral places as beautiful, “Hidden weeds flower”, this structurally is used to contrast to the urban city which Larkin describes more in detailed and explicitly later on in the book. The first line of the ‘Here’, “Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows” indicates Larkin’s agenda for the poem instantly. “Swerving east” could be to represent Larkin as travelling on a train. Travelling could be an interpretation for place as he demonstrates travelling through isolation to a town, back to isolation.
This isolation could be a symbol for his lack of identity, which is determined with place. At the time of the Whitsun Weddings the train was built and was seen as uniting England as one country. Identity is also a significant theme as well in ‘The importance of elsewhere’. Larkin discusses the way he is anonymous in Ireland, “Here no one elsewhere underwrites my existence”. However he does identify the smell of the fish dock, which in turn reminds him of his home in Hull. This could be to symbolise the importance of place to him through memories.
Larkin appears to be employing a sentimental mood, which is significant as it contrasts from his conventional unsentimental mood used throughout the collection of poems. This could also be due to the fact he is somewhere strange and he is presenting the way home is our central comfort and consequently the smell could comfort him by familiarity. ‘Home is so sad’ also uses assonance in stanza four which is used to exaggerate the sound and slow the pace of the poem. This could be used to allow the reader to take in the messages the poem is conveying more effectively, consequently demonstrating the importance of place to Larkin.
‘Home is so sad’ also represents home as our central comfort as it is suited to our personal preference, “Shaped to the comfort of the last to go as if to win them back”. “To win them back” is significant as it demonstrates how the comfort of your home as a place appeals to you, and this also ties in with the theme of conventional living. Conventional living is a key theme within the collection which Larkin evocates with a critically approach. Conventional living ties in with ‘place’ as Larkin suggests home is our conventional central comfort place.
Larkin criticises this idea and the conventionality by stating, “Look at the pictures and the cutlery” in ‘Home is so sad. He generalises the objects in the house and signifies that they represent the lives of the people that live there. Larkin conventionally generalises people and places that he sees to present the idea that modernisation has corrupted their individuality. Conventional living is also resented in ‘Here’. In this poem Larkin signifies that urban cities conventionally contain high street stores, working and therefore is routine of everyday life.
“Urban yet simple, dwelling where only salesmen and relations come”. In this quote Larkin also suggests cities are “simple”, yet again relating to cities losing their mystery. These conventionalities are presented critically by Larkin, but also could be so the reader recognise this and can associate with it. Larkin’s evocation of place is present within all the themes throughout the collection of poetry but most explicitly in ‘Here’, ‘Importance of elsewhere’ and ‘Home is so sad’. Larkin applies familiarity for the reader within these poems to engage the reader and evoke an emotional response consequently increasing interest.
He utilizes ‘place’ to represent ideas of belonging, identity and conventional living, which therefore could be interpreted in two different ways. Larkin could be mocking the reader through the way he emphasises something as simple as place can effect someone’s life so immensely, or Larkin could simple be interpreted as being satirical. By using ‘place’ within these poems Larkin could also be questioned whether he is being detached or distant, which additionally indicates if he is emotional involved in the poems.