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Larkin’s literary career was equally narrow and controlled. In his prime he published an average of only four poems a year. Later he defended his creative collapse: “Silence is preferable to publishing rubbish and far better for one’s reputation.” He never gave readings or lectures. (He had an embarrassing stammer.) He avoided London literary life. His secretary kept a file of “Refusal Letters,” composed in differing levels of politeness, ready for every possible request—autographs, advice, interviews, biographical information. When the influential South Bank Show paid him to film a television documentary, he refused to appear on camera. The director had to shoot over the poet’s shoulder. Larkin even declined the Poet Laureateship. “I dream of becoming laureate,” he remarked, “and wake up screaming.”