Friday, June 10, 2011

Philip Larkin and the Poetry of Lawnmowing

I stumbled on this fascinating article from the Guardian about how there's a surprising genre of poetry devoted to lawnmowing.

I have always thought of lawnmowing as a chore rather than an art form, so this was enlightening, espcially as a move beckons which will involve considerable time cutting grass.

"The poetry of lawnmowing, a surprisingly capacious subgenre of English literature running from Louis MacNeice to Andrew Motion, usually hones in on the touching futility of the ritual. The great lyricist of mowing the lawn is Philip Larkin, who mentions it throughout his poems and letters. "Have bought a new lawnmower ready for the spring offensive," he wrote to a friend in 1981. "Must get the flamethrower serviced, and invest in a few gallon drums of Weedol," writes Joe Moran.

Larkin certainly seems to have a thing about cut grass.

The Mower by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.


  1. I've never seen a hedgehog. I hope I don't ever hit one with the lawnmower. Ick. I am already always worrying I will run over a bunny nest and kill baby bunnies. Now I have something new to worry about! haha! Seriously, though, this poem makes good sense and gives good advice at the end. I had no idea there was a genre of poetry devoted to lawnmowing either.

  2. Ha! You wouldn't find my husband thinking it futile. Mowing the lawn is like "going on that long walk" for him. He's got a rider mower and makes patterns all around the house, while I grind my teeth, bitter at the sprinkler installation (you know how many times those heads have been replaced?) and smell of gas.
    Our water bill is outrageous. I pray for bucket loads of rain every summer. And a move to city!
    (Think I need to write my own poem about this?) ;)

  3. you should be OK daisy, maybe they don't have them in the US - seriously Jayne? That's um, um crazy - maybe he can come and mow my lawn.