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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Poets on the BBC: Tony Harrison and Philp Larkin; National Poetry Day



Simon Armitage in Conversation with Tony Harrison

"In this special programme recorded in front of a live audience, two of Britain's best-known and most popular poets, Simon Armitage and Tony Harrison, discuss their craft and careers. Tony Harrison is one of the leading poet-playwrights working in the English language today. Harrison grew up in working-class Leeds and, since exploding into public consciousness in 1987 when his controversial poem 'V' was televised, he has been well-known for his outspoken politics, with his poetry dealing with issues of class, race and power. Throughout his prolific career, he has written for the theatre, opera, film, television and print - but all of it in verse. Harrison has inspired a generation of younger writers to find their own voice - including fellow Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage, who like Harrison has established himself in other fields such as TV and translation, and whose northern roots and ear for the language of the street has given his work a young, urban appeal".

Return to Larkinland

"To celebrate National Poetry Day, and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death, writer and critic AN Wilson revisits the life and work of one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century, Philip Larkin - a poet soon to be honoured with a place in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Wilson traces Larkin's life from his childhood in Coventry, through to his student days at Oxford and then his adult years working in university libraries, whilst writing some of the best-loved and notorious poems in the English language.

Wilson, who knew Larkin in his later life, remembers memorable encounters with the poet and this personal connection helps him to reveal a complex man with a complicated, and at times tortured, private life. As part of this candid exploration into Larkin's life, Wilson confronts the allegations of racism, bigotry and misogyny that emerged following the publication of his Selected Letters and authorised biography, and which dogged his posthumous reputation.

However, Wilson concludes that it is Larkin's poems, not his faults, that have survived. Featuring readings of his work by Larkin himself, including the greatness of The Whitsun Weddings, Arundel Tomb, Church Going and Aubade, Wilson argues that Larkin spoke for Britain between the 1950s and 1970s perhaps more than any other writer".


Also on BBC iPlayer: Return to Betjemanland

"In 1984, Sir John Betjeman died and was buried at St Enodoc Church, close to the village of Tribetherick in north Cornwall.

Writer, critic and biographer of Betjeman, AN Wilson, visits the real and imagined places that shaped his life to reveal the life and work of the poet and broadcaster.

Wilson explores how Betjeman came to speak to, and for, the nation in a remarkable way. As a poet Betjeman was writing popular verse for the many, not the few. With his brilliant documentaries for television, Betjeman entertained millions with infectious enthusiasm as he explained his many passions and bugbears.

As a campaigner to preserve the national heritage, Betjeman was tireless in his devotion to conservation and preservation, fighting the planners, politicians and developers - railing against their abuse of power and money.

Wilson investigates this by visiting locations in London, Oxford, Cornwall, Somerset and Berkshire. He travels through a landscape of beautiful houses and churches, beaches and seaside piers - a place that Wilson calls Betjemanland.

In doing so he also reveals the complexity and contradictions of Betjeman - how Betjeman, the snob with a love of aristocrats and their country houses, is the same person who is thrilled by the more proletarian pleasures of the Great British seaside; how the poetry of Betjeman shows us that he is haunted by childhood memory, has religious faith but also doubt and is in thrall to love and infatuation; and how the man his friends called Betjeman was full of joie de vivre, but also suffered great melancholy and guilt whilst living an agonised double life".






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