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Cluster index: Alan Wall

The Persistence of the Song.

Alan Wall: ‘Blues has had an incalculable influence on modern song. Many of the basic riffs of the Rolling Stones come straight out of standard blues refrains: Keith Richards has been an assiduous student of black music.’

M. Baudelaire’s nightlife.

Alan Wall: ‘Nineteenth-century France does appear to be full of fellows slagging off their old mums at every opportunity, and having tea with them the following day. Oedipus reconciled, eh. Baudelaire’s trial for obscenity took place in 1857; Flaubert’s in 1859.’

Two short poems.

Alan Wall: ‘You promised me
your imprimatur
But I knew in your heart you were
always a traitor’

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.’


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.’


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.’