On 1st December the school was privileged to welcome Sir Andrew Motion, the ex-Poet Laureate, to deliver the annual Sir James Murray Lecture. He read a selection of poems from his new collection ‘The Cinder Path’ and offered insights on what inspired him to write them. He reflected also on the power of verse itself, and professed his ‘love’ for the work of several writers, in particular Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy and Philip Larkin.
Earlier Sir Andrew met a group of sixth form pupils to discuss his close friendship with Philip Larkin in the 1970s whilst he was teaching at Hull’s English department and where Larkin was the university librarian. They had got on well despite Larkin’s much professed dislike of academics and in particular members of the English Department; after Larkin’s death in 1985 Sir Andrew became his literary executor and biographer. As well as sharing some invaluable analysis of Larkin’s poems, Sir Andrew described Larkin’s dry and ready wit (an aspect of his character not always appreciated) as well as his penchant for heavy drinking, including, on occasion, port at breakfast time.
This was a unique opportunity for the pupils, who are writing about Larkin’s poetry for their A2 coursework, to learn more about Larkin’s poetry but also to gain an understanding of the man who wrote some of the twentieth century’s finest, most poignant verse. It isn’t every day that a pupil can have a private seminar with one of the world’s leading poets and so we are extremely grateful to Sir Andrew for offering us such a rich fare of poetry and thought.
R.W. Searby (Head of English)