#PoetryPromise February

Inspired by Chris Hildrew, my #PoetryPromise for 2016 is to share a favourite poem of mine every month through my blog. #PoetryPromise is coordinated through Poetry by Heart with the aim of promoting and spreading the love of poetry. My choice for February is Born Yesterday by Phillip Larkin.


Born Yesterday

For Sally Amis

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love –
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you’re a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn’t, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull –
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called.

This seems an appropriate poem for me to post this month, the month of my own birthday.

I love how Larkin doesn’t shy away from saying things others wouldn’t – or in a way that others wouldn’t. Here he’s wishing her happiness with a more realistic collection of ambitions. Larkin sees happiness in the ordinariness and balance of everyday life whilst others make wishes that will be unworkable (maybe they are naïve and ‘Born Yesterday’). As a man who worked for over 30 years in a library and never left the country some might see his life as pretty ordinary and yet he was someone who achieved remarkable things and was, in his own way, pretty remarkable.

I also love the metaphor that opens the poem: ‘tightly-folded bud’. It reminds me of my own little ones when they were first born all curled up and full of potential ready to unfurl and blossom.





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