POET AND PROFESSOR


‘The spring recoils upon us like a myth…’ The Professor, Kenneth Allott

 

We would meet occasionally, by chance,

outside lectures or tutorials,

near the bus stop by the Philharmonic Hall,

Professor Ken Allott in from the suburbs,

me from various damp, cold flats in Toxteth.

He would always speak and would always ask

about my writing. ‘A young man’s game,’ he’d say,

smiling. He was in his fifties then,

his two volumes out of print. He was

a good teacher – and a fine poet.

 

Ah, if I had seen then how fine –  a craftsman,

witty, lyrical, ironic –  what time

youth would have spent with age to learn about

our art, walking together up Hope Street.

 

‘Heaven is full of clocks which strike all day.

It is to music we are put away.’

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by arthur kemelman - January 27th, 2014 at 17:51

    I like your tribute to Prof. Allott. As you know, as a student at the department I also encountered both Prof. Allott and his wife, Miriam. I didn’t realize that he was a poet. They were both very nice people and enjoyable lecturers.

  2. #2 by David Selzer - January 27th, 2014 at 18:16

    They were indeed. Sadly, Miriam died last year – https://alumni.liv.ac.uk/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=1136&frcrld=1&utm_source=alumninewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alumni-newsletter-april-2011+&erid=1172170. Ken was seen in the Thirties as a peer of Auden et al. I’d hoped you’d like the piece.

  3. #3 by John Huddart - January 29th, 2014 at 11:50

    As for you, and like you, Kenneth Allott is an inspirational figure. A lost voice to poetry when he became a teacher, and made that decision you hint at – to leave it to the younger men and women. I have often thoughT how much better his work can be, than Auden’s and the rest.

    It was after a performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull in which I played Trigorin, the popular, but aimless novelist, that he spoke to me on the stairs in the English Department. ‘John’, he said, ‘you should be an actor, you haven’t read widely enough to be a teacher’.

    I struggled for some time with the compliment, because a teacher I became, and, if he was right, an ignorant one. Like Trigorin, I lacked decisive courage and didn’t dare to dream about the stage. But writing – the elephant in the room of the anecdote – has become a small part of my life.

    But there he was, the thirties poet, serious smoker, professor of modern English literature, and a teacher confessor to us all. His advice was etching its way in.

    Never far from a packet of Players Navy Cut, he believed TB had given him immunity from cancer. It was not to be. He died in 1973 – the year I qualified as a teacher.

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