I have been thinking of doing a primary weekly activity, and am going to try making Tuesday a day to pay tribute to other poets and some of their pieces that I personally enjoy and have felt inspired by before.
For today, I’d like to mention one of my favorite poems, called “Days” by Philip Larkin. The poem is well-known and has been evaluated time and time again by professionals and casual-adorers of the art of poetry. This is where poetry becomes fun and flexible as you can take what you like from it and develop your own meaning and appreciation for the piece. I think a lot of people have their own technique that they take when it comes to reading a new poem, my own personal approach is that I first read it aloud internally in my head, first just to take in the word use; secondly, I review the poem from the beginning with the ending in mind; thirdly, I will inject the melody that I interpret from the poem, which sometimes changes the way I experience the piece. Let’s give “Days” a read now:
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
By Philip Larkin
How do you interpret this poem? Does it give you a particular feeling, make you wonder a specific thought? You can even dive further into the questions, consider asking why the poet structured this piece this way, what their meaning might have been for it? Still keep in mind, at the same time, that just because the poet has riddled the poem with intention doesn’t necessarily mean that having a different perspective is ‘wrong’ by any means.
For me, this poem is just such a perfect blend of wit and detachment, it makes me think of the existential questions that cannot be definitively answered and at the same time at the end it provides an amusing image -two people frantically running over a hillside with concern written on their exasperated faces. I love that this poem begins with such a casual observation, then poses an enormous question, and ends by lending a thoughtful laugh. The way I see it is as a tribute to time, and the humor of reality, at the same time the impracticable nature of it all. Life is difficult to understand, some people spend their whole lives trying to figure it out, and sometimes there is really nothing to do but laugh at the ridiculousness of it. It’s amazing that even though it has taken me four very long-winded sentences to explain my interpretation of it, Larkin was able to summarize such a huge concept in 10 short lines… and that is just one part of the glory of poetry.