New Eyes Each Year offers a look at the life of Larkin

Published: Thursday 6th July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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An eye-opening exhibition has opened at the Brynmor Jones Library, delving into the personal life of Philip Larkin.

New Eyes Each Year is a curation of objects that were found in the home of the nation’s best loved poet. Whilst some are expected, such as ties, letters and countless books, some are far from commonplace in an exhibition.

A prime example is a pair of pink knickers with the order “DO NOT SPANK” displayed across them. Very cheeky.


The beauty of this tribute to the librarian is that it has a very clear order, yet also allows for bold juxtapositions and highlights.

Of all the books to be face-out on a shelf amongst many spines, curator Anna Farthing chose How to Avoid Matrimony by Herald Froy.


Then we have a small pile of books stacked next to the aforementioned knickers. Fittingly, these include The Rod and the Whip, The Cruel & the Meek, and one with the jolly title of Pornography and the Law. Needless to say, Larkin had many interests.

It’s not all books and smut though. One area shares items from his wardrobe whilst another focuses on jazz magazines and records. Meanwhile, small pieces of bric-a-brac, and everyday items take pride of place amongst the literature, with a surprising inclusion being a miniature Adolf Hitler.


Larkin was an interesting character to say the least. He was very meticulous, imaginative and outspoken, which fits his callings of librarian, poet and jazz critic perfectly. He could also be quite antisocial and controversial, as some of his possessions suggest.

Larkin’s life was also driven by creativity. His first collection of poems, The North Ship, was published when he was just 22. His first novel, Jill, followed a year later.

In 1955, when Larkin was in his thirties, he joined the University of Hull as its Librarian. He remained in this post for thirty years, until his death in 1985.

And yet his house at 105 Newland Park, just across the road from the campus, remained filled to the rafters with his possessions until 2003. For eighteen years these fascinating objects sat gathering dust, and an additional fourteen years have passed since they were found.


New Eyes Each Year, which is named after a Larkin poem, is very different to most other curations that focus on a single life. Usually the embarrassing and inappropriate will be removed, but that simply isn’t the case with this exhibition.

The result is a genuine glimpse into the life of a man who is treasured across the country. His statue stands proudly in Paragon Interchange, with a corresponding poem emblazoned across the wall in King’s Cross, connecting Hull to London via his beloved train route.

And even if you’re not a fan of Larkin or poetry in general, we still recommend a visit. At the very least, you’ll be impressed by how his lawnmower has been attached to the wall.


The collection remains in place until 1 October and is free to view. It can be found inside the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull and is open Monday to Friday 10am-7pm and Saturday to Sunday 10am-5pm.

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Published: Thursday 6th July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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