Monday, June 1, 2020

Mark Anthony Pearce writes


I am talking to one of the doctors
In the patients lounge
He has been enjoying reading
Philip Larkin’s letters to Monica Jones
Impressed that he wrote 
He believes
Some of his best poetry
In his early 20’s
‘I like High Windows myself’
Replied the doctor
Whose name is John
And who is a Liverpudlian
‘That’s a fantastic book’
Meanwhile the old woman

Sitting next to me
Is calling me Lucy
And I remind her
That I am man

And my name is Mark
John starts talking about Eugene O’Neill
‘Ah yes, Iceman Cometh’
It’s a great play
He agrees
But thinks it’s too long
As he saw it performed
Some time ago
At a theatre in London
‘There were four intervals in all
Too long!’
Says John
‘That’s too long!’
I have no comment to make
The old woman
Who is sitting next to me
Is now calling me Sally
And I remind her
That I am a man
And my name is Mark

Ardleigh Ward, 

The Lakes Mental Health Centre, 

Colchester, February 2011


  1. Philip Larkin worked as a librarian at the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull while he published his poetry. His 1st book was "North Ship" in 1945 (followed by a couple of novels) and his next collections were "The Less Deceived" (1955), "The Whitsun Weddings" (1964), and "High Windows" (1974). He declined appointment as poet laureate in 1984 and died the following year. In 1947, while he was working at University College of Leicester he met Margaret Monica Beale Jones, who was an assistant lecturer of English there, and in 1950 they became lovers, and he dedicated "The Less Deceived" to her. Larkin allowed his friend Kingsley Amis (who had not yet met her) to portray her maliciously as "Margaret Peel" in his 1954 novel "Lucky Jim," but only after Amis changed her name from "Margeret Beale." ("Lucky" Jim Dixon was modeled after Larkin himself, and was named after Larkin's address at 12 Dixon Drive; Larkin contributed significantly to the structure of the novel, which was dedicated to him.) After Larkin's death she destroyed his 30 volumes of diaries and private letters, though she deposited the 7,500 pages of Larkin-Jones correspondence (1,400 letters, 500 postcards) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford; Faber published "Letters to Monica" in 2011. He died in 1985 and she in 2001; both are buried in Cottingham Municipal Cemetery near Hull; their white headstones are of identical design. In 1954 Larkin wrote "An Arundel Tomb," which (as usual) he shared with her to get her critical reaction. He wrote, "“I’m absolutely sick of my tomb poem, and thought I wd send it you unfinished as a token for St Valentine’s Day. Not that it’s in any sense a valentine, but to give you something special from me on that day. It’s complete except for the last verse, which I can’t seem to finish; but I can‘t feel it’s very good even as it stands. It starts nicely enough, but I think I’ve failed to put over my chief idea, of their lasting so long, & in the end being remarkable only for something they hadn’t perhaps meant very seriously. Do let me know what you think of it. I hope you don’t find any grammatical solecisms, any ‘secret shagging split infinitives’ nestling among the inflexible lines.”
    The final verse:
    Time has transfigured them into
    Untruth. The stone fidelity
    They hardly meant has come to be
    Their final blazon, and to prove
    Our almost-instinct almost true:
    What will survive of us is love.

    As he continued to remark to his long-time lover/muse, "Of course love is not just a word: I don’t mean to be ‘cynical’ about it. Nor do I want to enlist myself under it because, again, it isn’t just a word, & I can see clearly that my life isn’t governed by it. Some bright lad (E.M.F.?) said the opposite of love wasn’t hate but individuality (personality, egotism) and I’ve been feeling increasingly that it is this that keeps me from love – I mean love isn’t just something extra, it’s a definite acceptance of the fact that you aren’t the most important person in the world. Here again I feel a fallacy lurking: if A isn’t the most important person in the world then why shd B be? The better conclusion wd be that if A wasn’t, then nobody is. Of course I’m not speaking of love as an emotion but as a motive, that leads to action, which seems to me the only real proof of a quality or a feeling.... There isn’t anything very new in my remarks: obviously people who think themselves the most important person in the world are ‘immature’ – part invalid, part baby & part saint, as I wrote. I suppose most people have spells of abrogating their own importance, & spells of trying to get it back, until they settle down into some way of living that ensures it isn’t abrogated or reclaimed too often, because most people not only want but must have their cake and eat it as well."

  2. Eugene O'Neill wrote "The Iceman Cometh" in 1939 but did not publish it until 1946, afraid that American audiences would reject it. The play's central contention is the human need for self-deceptions in order to carry on with life.


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