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High Windows

Known as "England's other Poet Laureate" until his death in 1985, Philip Larkin quietly and steadily produced one of the most beautiful, disturbing, funny, and accessible bodies of verse of any poet writing in English in the 20th century.

Larkin used the traditional tools of poetry—rhyme, stanza, and meter—to explore uncomfortable or terrifying themes. His writing is often about the collision of the old and the new, embodied in "High Windows" by the "couple of kids" and the old-timers who might've seen Larkin as a "free bloody bird" in his youth.

"High Windows" showcases everything that is wonderful and difficult about Larkin. The poem is simultaneously vulgar, sweet, spiritual, and deeply melancholic. In Larkin, sex is always a metaphor for something else, for vitality, for escape, for shame. I wanted to create a cover that gestured towards the deep well of feelings that "sex" and sex conjure for most of us.

Before I share my notes, here is the poem in full:

HIGH WINDOWS
by Philip Larkin
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s   
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,   
I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—   
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if   
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,   
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark
About hell and that, or having to hide   
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide   
Like free bloody birds. And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:   
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

At first I thought that I might focus on the "slide", but once I got the image of a couple holding hands in the grass in my mind, I couldn't shake it.

But I wanted something more modern, and something that hinted at the idea of light and windows. So this is where I ultimately arrived:

Let me know what you think! 

Cheers,

Marshall

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