The Times Literary Supplement Just Wrote 1,600 Words About An "Unpublished Philip Larkin Poem" That Wasn't By Him
Literary fail of the day.
Readers of The Times Literary Supplement – and fans of Philip Larkin – were treated to a joyous surprise this morning.
That's right: the paper had managed to get hold of an unpublished poem by one of Britain's greatest Twentieth Century poets.
Over the course of 1,600-odd words, it waxed lyrical about this new discovery.
The piece has now been taken down, but you can read a cached version here.
It described the process by which the poem was found: "The fact that a copy of the discarded or forgotten poem was allowed, in some sense, to survive (albeit in two halves), in a workbook Larkin knew would end up in the hands of his editors, seems consistent with his notoriously contradictory last wishes concerning all his unpublished work."
However, it went on: "The text, however, speaks unambiguously for itself. There are striking similarities to work before and after the probable period of its composition: it not only shows where Larkin had come from, but where he was going next."
It continued: "It is the third and fourth stanzas of 'In and Out' which most strongly produce the emotional and linguistic thrill associated with Larkin's later, fully achieved works... And who but Larkin could create pathos from a dying fire that 'has lasted, against the odds, all the time [its makers] slept', or give such moodily authoritative closure to these wary affirmations in three words: 'Simple lessons, then'?"
However, as one Facebook commentator pointed out – it didn't appear to have been written by Larkin at all.
It seems to have been written by the little-known Hull poet Frank Redpath.
People on Twitter soon began sifting through Google books, and lo and behold, snippets from Redpath's poem were there on page 108 of the anthology A Rumoured City.
In a statement, the Times Literary Supplement told BuzzFeed: "New details have recently come to light. We'll be publishing the full story later on this week."
Cue the piss taking.
Oh dear. Still, there's one positive side to this story.
The TLS has confirmed that the poem is by Frank Redpath in a blog entry. The blog says:
"That’s right: contrary to what we and the Larkin scholars who inspected it believed, 'In and Out' isn’t by Larkin, after all. Yet it seemed so perfectly (too perfectly?) Larkinesque. And as Tom Cook wrote in last week’s issue, it ended up as two halves of loose typescript tucked into one of Larkin's archived workbooks at the University of Hull."
The blog goes on to include some interesting details on Redpath (on whom there's very little information online), and his fractious relationship with Larkin.