Philip Larkin, who died in 1985, was a poet and perhaps the most famous librarian in the world. In 2016, he was commemorated with a stone memorial in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

At the time of the 1977 prize, Larkin was librarian at the University of Hull, a post in which he remained until his death. By then he was famous for his poetry, and well-known for two novels, his editorship of The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, and as a somewhat dour and reserved persona with little interest in the limelight. The details of his complicated romantic life and – to modern eyes – sometimes unsavoury views and tastes came only with the posthumous publication of his letters in 1992. Larkin turned down the Poet Laureateship in 1984.