In the Critics this Week

Philip Larkin and Ernest Hemingway remembered, Jude Rogers on Britpop and Will Self on kebabs.

This week, Anthony Thwaite, a former NS literary editor, assesses the legacy of Philip Larkin's poetry. To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Live Aid, Daniel Trilling charts the rise of the charitable pop star, while Rachel Cooke asks why abortion is still a taboo subject for TV drama.

In Books, Leo Robson reviews a restored edition of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Jude Rogers commends Louise Wener's candid memoir of her time as member of the Britpop band Sleeper and Charles Leadbeater explores the ideas of the internet guru Clay Shirky.

Elsewhere, Peter Watts reports from a provocative exhibition on skin at the Wellcome Collection, and we have the rest of the usual columns from our award-winning critics: Ryan Gilbey on film, Antonia Quirke on radio and Will Self's Real Meals - this week on the delights of a shish kebab.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Moss Side Public Laundry, 1979

A new poem by Pippa Little.

Childless I arrive with a rucksack,
own no Silver Cross steered topple-high
by the bare-legged women in check coats
and bulging shoes who load and unload
ropes of wet sheets, wring them out
to rams’ horns while heat-slap of steam
dries to tinsel in our hair, frizzles our lips
gritty with Daz sherbert dabs and the mangle,
wide as a room-size remnant, never stops groaning
one slip and you’re done for…

In the boom and echo of it, their calls swoop
over Cross-your-Hearts, Man. City socks,
crimplene pinks and snagged underskirts,
Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out! blasts
from across the park, whole streets
get knocked out like teeth,
in a back alley on the way a man
jumped me, shocked as I was
by the fuck off! I didn’t know was in me

but which I try out now to make them laugh, these women
who scrub blood and beer and come
with red-brick soap, quick-starch a party dress
while dryers flop and roar
before their kids fly out of school,
flock outside for a smoke’s sweet rest
from the future bearing down of four walls and one man.

Pippa Little’s collection Overwintering (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Award. Her new book, Twist, was published in March by Arc. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder