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Cluster index: Alan Wall

Why I am Not a Philosopher.

Alan Wall: ‘I do have a fondness for the philosophical miscreants, the delinquents of the humanities block. Kierkegaard is at his best when he is destroying the philosophical pretensions of Hegel.’

What are poets for?

Alan Wall: ‘Tarn spends a lot of time looking back, including over the religions and the peoples he has studied. He has an insatiable curiosity where cultures are concerned. He looks forward too, with Solomonic gravitas.’

Midrash.

Alan Wall: ‘When Christians decided to impose their figural readings on the Hebrew Bible, and to employ typology, they deemed the text before them to be allegorical, or at least to have allegorical potential.’

The Beatles: Yeah x 3.

Alan Wall: ‘So cataclysmic were the changes, that we cannot re-think ourselves into a history without the Beatles. If the Stones really were an alternative, they were an alternative that couldn’t have evolved the way they did without the Beatles. They even recorded their compositions.’

Pop Songs.

Alan Wall: ‘ You could half-whisper into a mike, and you were instantly in a bedroom, disrobing. Leonard Cohen was very close to the mike. There was a reason for this: in any orthodox sense, he couldn’t sing. He was endearingly aware of the fact.’

Etymologizing.

Alan Wall: ‘Etymology is mostly strict and scholarly these days. Even to the point where it contradicts our presuppositions. Faced with the word ravenous, we might reasonably suppose that a raven lives there. After all, this is a big, commanding, eye-plucking bird. Pruk-pruk. It used to make a feast of our dead, lying around after battle – maybe it will again one day. But here the etymology disappoints.’

Chaos is come again.

ALAN WALL: ‘It seems to me that Shakespeare had understood early on that order is performative, not static. It must be re-enacted constantly, or it collapses back towards chaos. Order is a dynamic affirmation. Every time we write a poem, or enact a play, or sing a song, we are asserting order.’

Representation by millimetres.

Alan Wall: ‘G. K. Chesterton once remarked that the phrase ‘He has lost his reason’ is often the precise opposite of the truth. He has lost human affection, any sense of balance, any residue of charity or compassion, but his reason continues. Whirring away in a vacuum. And that is Dr Strangelove.’

The Metaphoric Graveyard.

Alan Wall: ‘Obviously, the words are not always to hand. Words disappear; they fall out of use irretrievably, particularly when a language substantially changes form.’

Blossoming under a black sun.

Alan Wall: ‘This paralysis of spirit leads to remarkable feats of intellectual observation. It can also lead to hideous stasis. Benjamin reckoned one great solace the melancholic had was allegory. Allegory transposes the vital organic figures into a tableau, in which meaning dictates characteristics and movement. Once more we are seeing dialectics at a standstill.’

‘No Worst There Is None’: Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Alan Wall: ‘Hopkins is exercising extreme intelligence inside this text; he is helping the words to locate themselves with maximum vigour and force. This is the ultimate vindication of the task of the philologist-poet. To find eloquence not in smoothness, but in the jagged soundings of potent speech.’

The poet as essayist.

Alan Wall: ‘When George Oppen wrote ‘Of Being Numerous’ in the 1960s he was a writing a consciously, formally democratic verse. It fragments and recombines. It celebrates the ‘shipwreck of the singular’. The ‘I’ has been fractured. It is no more an isolated entity, a singularity that commands its world.’

A Note on Inscape, Descriptionism and Logical Form.

Alan Wall: ‘They have achieved a significant form that grafts them on to one another, as though they were organically related, or at least symbiotically fused. The space between them ceases to be homogeneous, and becomes shaped instead. Homology signifies a shared origin in function and development. For example, pectoral fins, bird wings, and the forelimbs of mammals – all are homologous, whereas bird wings and insect wings are merely analogous.’

Viduities.

Alan Wall: ‘We are outnumbered by the dead. Should they all return at once, our world would be crowded, perhaps beyond endurance. Bob Hope waits in cryonic suspension, ready for that moment when the medical technology can restore him to the ranks of the living, where he might once more set the table on a roar, as Yorick too had done, before they laid him in the earth, before digging him up again. A prolepsis of archaeology.’

Just a smack at Auden.

Alan Wall: ‘What Sansom discovers in the stanzas of this poem is a fair bit of confusion. Auden didn’t know what would become of the world (who did?) and has become intolerant of his own previous facility in diagnosing the world’s ills.’