Larkin: New Eyes Each Year, an exhibition opening this week at the University of Hull's Brynmor Jones Library, offers a new way of approaching the life and work of Philip Larkin, who has been described as Britain's favourite poet.
Larkin: New Eyes Each Year is a creative, multi-sensory and immersive display of personal items, clothing, letters, photographs, drawings, music and film, which invites fresh responses to the complex and contradictory life of a widely admired artist whose biographical narrative has been much contested.
Most of the objects in the exhibition have never been shown in public. They focus on his domestic and personal interests, including ties, souvenirs, previously unseen photographs and his private book collection, which ranges from crime fiction to Beatrix Potter and is arranged in the order that they were found at his home.
There are garments worn by his muse and mistress Monica Jones, as well as himself. His relationship with friends, family and other women is also illustrated through the items he chose to collect, including three Super 8 films showing life at the library and a rare recording of a conversation with his mother, along with examples of the letters that he wrote to her every day.
Curated by Anna Farthing and designed by Craig Oldham, both of them award-winning in their fields, Larkin: New Eyes Each Year is presented by Hull 2017, the Philip Larkin Society and the University of Hull Archives.
The display takes its name from the Larkin poem, New Eyes Each Year, about books, a library and its visitors. The title reflects both the site responsive contextual approach they have taken and the invitation for new eyes to view Larkin’s work. Visitors are encouraged to become immersed in the images, sounds and artefacts that have been brought together.
Larkin: New Eyes Each Year invites questions from the visitor. It is an opportunity to consider Larkin’s sense of self and how he controlled his own image, reflected in his rarely seen letters, photographs and doodles.