Second Meeting: Monday, 31 Oct. 2016: Selected Poems of Philip Larkin

Next Meeting:
Date and Time: Monday, 31 Oct. 2016, 7 pm
Venue: Teviot Library Bar
Reading: Selected poems of Philip Larkin (‘Skin’, ‘Faith Healing’, ‘Ambulances’, ‘The Old Fools’, ‘The Building’, ‘How’, ‘Heads in the Women’s Ward’, ‘Continuing to Live’, ‘The Mower’, and ‘Hospital Visits’).

First of all, a quick thank you to all those who could attend our last meeting for making it quite a riveting session. It is great to see new faces from different backgrounds, and we hope this will continue over the course of the year. Meanwhile, we look forward to new members attending (as well as old members coming back) over the course of the next few weeks. So please feel free to come along regardless of whether your background is in medicine, literary studies or any other field. Should you know anybody else who would be interested, please do spread the word, as all are indeed welcome. As always, we assume no previous knowledge for any of the discussions nor do we expect attendance at previous meetings, and we welcome diverse backgrounds.

A few quick housekeeping notes: firstly, many of our members would have noticed the readings for the last session were quite heavy, academic works (including one piece of academic philosophy true to the Anglo-American analytic tradition in its style and philosophical position). This is an experiment to try and expand what we discuss at the reading group and consider bigger theoretical and philosophical questions alongside our general reading of poetry or fiction, an experiment which, it would appear, worked really well. So for the next few sessions, I was thinking we could alternate between the heavy, theoretical/philosophical material and fiction or poetry work so as to get a nice variety of discussion. So for the next meeting, I am proposing a ‘light’ session of reading some poetry (more information below). As always, should you have any suggestions for readings, please feel free to get in touch.

Secondly, in terms of frequency of meetings, those who attended the last meeting thought of meeting every fortnight. We agreed that this was an appropriate interval, one which was not too steep a commitment and which gave us adequate time to prepare for meetings. Considering our availability and other commitments are fairly well-paced right now, we can meet at this pace. Depending on how things unfold over the course of the term, we can always revise this.

Finally, there is the perennial problem of time and venue. Generally, everyone who attended felt, after all the Doodle surveys, re-organising, planning and horse trading, Monday evenings works best (an irony which would not be lost on our regular members from the years before). I am also aware that this time is not suitable for many of our members. So for the time being, I suggest wecontinue to meet at 7 pm on Mondays. However if anybody who cannot make this time would like to propose an alternative time and venue, and if enough of our members are available for a meeting, then we can go about rescheduling.

Also, members are more than welcome (and indeed are urged) to suggest readings and/or themes for future meetings. If there is anything you would like to discuss, feel free to let me know and we can discuss it at a future meeting.

Next, the readings for the forthcoming session, I would like to propose we read a selection of poetry by Philip Larkin. The selection includes ‘Skin’, ‘Faith Healing’, ‘Ambulances’, ‘The Old Fools’, ‘The Building’, ‘How’, ‘Heads in the Women’s Ward’, ‘Continuing to Live’, ‘The Mower’, and ‘Hospital Visits’. I would like to suggest considering the representation of the body, illness, ageing, death and of medical practice in these poems, no poems in particular really, just have a read and see which ones most appeal to you. You will notice some seem less directly relevant to the theme of medicine than others. Still, I am hoping we can bring these different poems together with some degree of dialogue between them.

(If you would like help in getting hold of the readings, please get in touch.)

For the meeting after that (the next ‘heavy’ session), I was thinking of continuing our discussion of narrativity to focus specifically on the intersection between literary fiction and psychotherapy, looking in particular at a series of correspondences between the novelist J.M. Coetzee and the psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Arabella Kurtz. More on this at a later date.

Finally, if you have any questions about the Reading Group, any suggestions for things to read or would like to know more, feel free to get in touch via email or by commenting here. You can also find us on Facebook (


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