If you locate 11 Outlands Road on Google Street View, you might be surprised at how inoffensive it looks. This is the house on the northern outskirts of Hull, UK, in which Philip Larkin wrote “Mr Bleaney,” his seemingly autobiographical and characteristically bleak poem about making one’s self at home in mediocrity. The speaker rents an unsatisfactory room and can’t help identifying with its previous occupant, an old bachelor.
They rubbed two sticks together and made friction.
They made a fist but couldn’t make a hand.
Their dictionary wasn’t made of diction.
Their diction made them hard to understand.
Trying to make a poem, they made a list.
Trying to make the team, they made the choir.
They made up stories whose protagonist
would rub two sticks together and make fire.
Mistakes were made, and mixtapes to go with them.
They made a couch their bed and made their bed.
They tried to make a joke at the expense
of love and money. “Make me,” money said.
They made up stories but they made no sense.
They rubbed two cents together and made rhythm.