Trouble at Willow Gables

Philip Larkin - Poetry, Politics, Love and Jazz - Ian Smith

Ian Smith [+-]
Writer, Broadcaster and Musician
Ian Smith has lectured on literature, film and cultural theory at the Universities of Oxford, Boston, Warwick, London, and Kingston. He has also worked as a professional jazz musician for many years. This musical work includes composing and performing settings of Larkin poems for BBC Radio 3; settings that formed part of the stage show “Larkin’s Jazz”, presented at UK literary and jazz festivals. He has published and broadcast regularly on literature, jazz, and cultural politics.His play, Blood Count, exploring the complex relationship and creative partnership of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2015 and 2016. His study of Harold Pinter, Pinter in the Theatre, is published by Nick Hern books (2005).


Around the time of Larkin’s university years he developed the alter ego “Brunette Coleman”, under which name he wrote two novellas, an autobiography and a parodic literary manifesto. The writing and the persona clearly indicate a playful treatment of “identity issues”. And the generic form of the novellas, mixing the pastiche of schoolgirl fiction and soft porn, also speaks of Larkin’s literary impulses to write both with cerebral knowingness and visceral appeal. The Brunette Coleman stories also link sexuality and jazz: in one of the novellas the girls discover a stash of illicit jazz records, and when listening to the records they find themselves roused to sexual frenzy. This chapter will acknowledge that the Brunette Coleman material is a fanciful and recreational body of Larkin’s work. But it will also trace ways in which his writing weaves jazz with self-parody, confession, fantasy, social satire and creative joy.

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Smith, Ian. Trouble at Willow Gables. Philip Larkin - Poetry, Politics, Love and Jazz. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Mar 2026. ISBN 9781781798102. Date accessed: 19 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.36499. Mar 2026

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