Saturday, April 24, 2010

A poem on your parents

I come from a very literary family.  Spontaneous "Name that Poem and Author" contests have been known to break out at family gatherings.  People quote Dylan Thomas, W B Yeats, and T S Elliot as part of normal conversation.  ("I grow old, I grow old, I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."  And someone will respond "Do I dare to eat a peach?")  I am one of the very few in my family without a degree in English (and without a Masters degree).  Members of my family write books, some are English professors.  Me?  Only a fine arts degree BA.

This poem was read by the singer Sting at a gala poetry reading in New York City on April 21. Blackbird attended - lucky lady. The event was very fine - poems read by Meryl Streep, Matt Dillon, Gabriel Byrne, Alan Cumming, and others.  My family has loved this poem for a long time.  It explains a lot, don't you think?

This Be the Verse
Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Now I must go deal with those I have fucked up.....


  1. He did it well, too, Sting.
    Fast and loud and choppy and turned on his heel the very second he finished the last line.

  2. If we parents were only always perfect!

  3. I have to say whether I comment or not, most of your posts I feel deep in my gut. You certainly poked me right where I live with this one. I'm not well educated and the only other poem I will say has affected me this greatly is the one quoted in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" by W.H. Auden.
    By chance and not by choice I have not reproduced and I can see certainly while that is my loss, it probably is some unborn soul's gain. I say this laughing and crying.