Cover by Peter Saville, 1980

Jerome Leibling. Brighton Beach, 1995.

Orphan Annie ‘Ritz Cracker’ sweater, 1971.

Havana 1950. Coat and dress by Tina Leser. Model Jean Patchett.

John Huston and Orson Welles, during the filming of the unfinished The Other Side of the Wind. Ph: Mike Ferris.

Mary Frey, Catcher, 2014. Stoneware, underglaze, carbon fiber, 5 × 5 × 4.5 in.

ROBERT PHILLIPS How many days a week do you work at the library, and for how many hours a day?

PHILIP LARKIN My job as University librarian is a full-time one, five days a week, forty-five weeks a year. When I came to Hull, I had eleven staff; now there are over a hundred of one sort and another. We built one new library in 1960 and another in 1970, so that my first fifteen years were busy. Of course, this was a period of university expansion in England, and Hull grew as much as if not more than the rest. Luckily the vice-chancellor during most of this time was keen on the library, which is why it is called after him. Looking back, I think that if the Brynmor Jones Library is a good library—and I think it is—the credit should go to him and to the library staff. And to the University as a whole, of course. But you wouldn’t be interested in all that.

PHILLIPS What is your daily routine?

LARKIN My life is as simple as I can make it. Work all day, cook, eat, wash up, telephone, hack writing, drink, television in the evenings. I almost never go out. I suppose everyone tries to ignore the passing of time: some people by doing a lot, being in California one year and Japan the next; or there’s my way—making every day and every year exactly the same. Probably neither works.

PHILLIPS You didn’t mention a schedule for writing . . .

LARKIN Yes, I was afraid you’d ask about writing. Anything I say about writing poems is bound to be retrospective, because in fact I’ve written very little since moving into this house, or since High Windows, or since 1974, whichever way you like to put it. But when I did write them, well, it was in the evenings, after work, after washing up (I’m sorry: you would call this “doing the dishes”). It was a routine like any other. And really it worked very well: I don’t think you can write a poem for more than two hours. After that you’re going round in circles, and it’s much better to leave it for twenty-four hours, by which time your subconscious or whatever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on.

The best writing conditions I ever had were in Belfast, when I was working at the University there. Another top-floor flat, by the way. I wrote between eight and ten in the evenings, then went to the University bar till eleven, then played cards or talked with friends till one or two. The first part of the evening had the second part to look forward to, and I could enjoy the second part with a clear conscience because I’d done my two hours. I can’t seem to organize that now.

Harmony Block Vista Alegre

B. Kliban draws like, and was married to, M.K. Brown.