Six Poets Hardy to Larkin. An Anthology by Alan Bennett features his selection of English verse by his favourite poets, accompanied by an enlivening commentary. It was published last week for National Poetry Day.
Writers like to elude their public, lead them a bit of a dance. They take them down untrodden paths, land them in unknown country where they have to ask for directions.
In this personal anthology, Alan Bennett has chosen over a hundred poems by six well-loved poets, discussing the writers and their verse in his customary conversational style through anecdote, shrewd appraisal and spare but telling biographical detail. Speaking with candour about his own reactions to the work, Alan Bennett creates profound and witty portraits of Thomas Hardy, A E Housman, John Betjeman, W H Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin, all the more enjoyable for being in his own particular voice.
Anybody writing poetry in the thirties had somehow to come to terms with Auden. Auden, you see, had got a head start on the other poets. He’d got into the thirties first, like someone taking over the digs.