Alan Ross

Alan Ross is the editor of the London Magazine. The second volume of his autobiography, Coastwise Lights, was published in 1988.

Three Poems

Alan Ross, 28 November 1996

A Calcutta Office

Entering my father’s old office In Bankshall Street, the cries of paan sellers And Hooghley steamer sirens Drifting through shuttered windows, I feel like a thief –

The desks in the same places, The punkahs revolving, peons on their stations, But the whole room shrunken, As if by his absence, an empire meanwhile And himself come to grief.



Poem: ‘Monkeys at Rewa’

Alan Ross, 5 October 1995

Peering through bougainvillea that sits On their heads like mob caps, Monkeys set up advance posts.

Soon, hands to ears, as if telephoning, They establish links, At pre-arranged signals swarming

In formation. Temples’ bronze domes Attract them. They pick up stones With their tails

Hurling them like cricketers, Wizened businessmen On a company spree.

They take over the place, Noisy...

Two Poems

Alan Ross, 23 February 1995


A Benedictine abbey, the S of a river Feathered by willows. The rural life Placed on a platter, barns, A church spire, cottages.

A farmer drives his cattle Over water-meadows, geese on a playing-field like footballers In 4 – 2 – 4 formation.

An atmosphere of grunt and mud, A liquid greenness.

Mist rises; even now it’s not fanciful To imagine it, laced with cyanide,...

Poem: ‘Pipelines at Al Alimadi’

Alan Ross, 18 November 1993

Like lengths of spaghetti or croquet hoops Pipelines stacked on the jetty. Around them, cranes in suspension Claw like dentists’ drills.

Containers are less than their shadows Under sky the colour of putty, And heat, swooning to mirage, Nullifies effort.

Only tankers move in the Gulf, Their wakes unzipping silence, Their crews mute signatories To a war at half-cock.

Poem: ‘U 244’

Alan Ross, 12 March 1992

Anticipating our zigzag, as if somehow By information or low

Cunning, she knew our speed And course, she contrived a need

For company. She came at us From all angles, silently, without fuss,

A whine on the asdic, homing in. We readied depth charges, prepared

Our tin fish. She moved away, Out of the sea’s swing and sway,

As if hurt, a rebuffed lover, Whose hide-and-seek was over.


The war is a long way back and young people take little interest in it, or in the feel of what was being said and written at the time. Lawrence, Yeats and Eliot go marching on, attracting...

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The Pain of History

Stephen Brook, 19 February 1981

Derek Walcott is now 50 years old, but there is none of the placidity or mellowing of middle age in The Star-Apple Kingdom. If Naipaul is the great novelist of the colonial experience, Walcott...

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