Man hands on misery to man.

So this is a well known poem, almost a cliché, but I might do something tomorrow that might make me very unhappy for pretty fucked up reasons, and had a discussion with my sister about it tonight, and although we’re different in so many ways, and 8 years apart in age, we have the same fucked up instincts when it comes to other people. Well, I’ll rethink it tomorrow. But this evening, this poem sounds pretty on point. If you live in or near Bonn, Germany, I’m inviting you to a cup of coffee tomorrow or the day after :) How’s that. Coffee and a Philip Larkin poem.

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

5 thoughts on “Man hands on misery to man.

  1. Oh yes… One of the best poems of how how parents f*** us up and we in turn do the same to the next generation.

    Reminds me of a wonderful line from Jacques Prévert:

    Les enfant ont tout sauf ce qu’on leur prend…

  2. Thanks for this. Oddly, I just reread this poem myself this past weekend while hunting down a few dozen poems in English to pass on to a French friend. It’s often in my head, along with Quentin Crisp’s concluding item on a list of bits of advice on how to be photographed: “Never allow yourself to be photographed by a family member. Leave home as soon as you’re able, and never look back.” Bon courage.

  3. Apologies for my tardy response; I’ve just been unusually underwater. To answer your question, I’m afraid you’d be disappointed at the laziness of my having just flipped rather too quickly through a copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry, sticking post-it notes on whatever caught my eye that seemed like it might make for a good start at English-language poetry for someone who’s just reaching fluency: Donne, Marvel, Keats, Byron, Lear, Dickinson, Hopkins, Yeats, Auden, Levine, Stevens, Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, cummings, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Adrienne Rich, James Dickey, a few others. If you ever feel like posting a list of personal recommendations, I’d love to see it, as I’m grateful for your already having turned me on to many poets I didn’t know at all.

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