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‘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.’




© Copyright David Selzer
5 Responses
  • arthur kemelman
    January 27, 2014

    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.

  • John Huddart
    January 29, 2014

    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.

  • Clive Watkins
    March 21, 2018

    He was a fine poet and a fine scholar. I had read Law and did not have the good fortune to meet him, though I did later meet his wife. Another story… I was glad to read your poem, David.

    • David Selzer
      March 21, 2018

      Thank you, Clive. He was also an accomplished lecturer and teacher – as was his wife, Professor Miriam Allott.

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