Alexander Davis interviewed by Rita Zimnol 2022 

RZ. Did your very early experience of the Blitz have an enduring effect on your life? 

AD. More than it is possible to express in words.  

But do not get me started on the War.  It would be upsetting. 

Absolute Terror. Bombsites the morning after.  

And still today expecting the Air Raid Warning to sound at any moment. 

RZ. Is the subject of your poetry informed by your experiences of the Blitz? 

AD. Everything in my outlook is.  

I mention Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.  

Few today would understand.  But they saw us through the very darkest days.  

A whole poem of my memories of the War is  Among My Souvenirs .

Another road gone

But the bus will be along

The train will be on time

As soon as they repair the line

Another is Marvellous Colours.

But there are other references and allusions.  Magic in the Air is a good example.  

These are subdued. I am not one of those poets who sets out to upset. 


 RZ. Were some of the artists and makers that you met and worked with influential on your

ideas and beliefs? 

AD. In the 1960s it was stimulating to discuss art and learn about the avant garde with

Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley and particularly with Richard Allen. 

Jos and Joe Tilson. Talking with creatives.

Concrete poets. John Sharkey. Dom Sylvester Houedard.

Sculptors. Steve Furlonger and John Panting.

Tony Hepburn was an inspirational figure in the field of ceramic sculpture.

Later I had many meetings with Henry Moore and remember his commonsense statements

on sculpture and life in general. 

Alan Bowness was very supportive of all my work. He had a real understanding of books and

libraries and research.    

The writers I knew were mainly associated with art.

Through my first publisher Lund Humphries and later the Henry Moore Foundation I met people like David Sylvester and Peter Fuller.

Julian Andrews at the British Council.

Two of Herbert Read's sons. Benedict Read, and John Read who made the television films about Henry Moore.

I never met T.S.Eliot. And apart from Henry Moore, a link with the poet was Lauren Bacall. She had met him and was at the Foundation one day. 

She owned an early bronze by Moore.

A small horse which she called My Hoss.

All now strange nostalgic links with the past. Bacall and Bogart and Casablanca and Philip Marlowe and Raymond Chandler ( who was a poet initially).

I even saw Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company once.

At the American Embassy in London.

A link with Hemingway as well as Eliot.

Today I admire greatly craftspeople and jewellers in particular.  

Absolute skill and perfection of their work in precious silver.  

I have tried to capture their essence in some of my poems.  

Jewellery has always been miniature sculpture to me.  

Some makers extend their work into sculpture.  

Anna Lorenz  and Sheng Zhang are  good examples.  

Ane Christensen and Ute Decker and Mariko Sumioka. 


RZ. What are your other sources of inspiration? 

AD. Books. Books more than anything.  Literature. Writers. Poets.  

Sophocles to Shakespeare.

 Lucretius to Longfellow. Euripides to Emerson  

The greats of recent times. Shvarts and Szymborska.

Pound and Paz. Eliot and Enzensberger.   

When the Writers at Work Paris Review Interviews  books were first published

I decided that writing would be a good way to spend each day.  

Reading is like living in a glorious penthouse with panoramic views of the whole city. 

Only now that I am writing poetry myself do I fully appreciate  all the poets of the past.  

Moore would always talk about the sculptors of the past

 Mostly Michelangelo.

Ancient and Primitive sculptors but mostly Michelangelo.  

Only now do I understand why.  Working in the same medium.

 Marble for carving Words for writing.

In Nostalgia for the Avant Garde I try to introduce briefly the very best writers for the

benefit of those who always say they like poetry but do not know enough about it. 


RZ. Why did you decide to start writing poetry later in life? 

AD. Poetry is focused. Prose can be too long with conversational terms that are not needed

such as   -   therefore quite really perhaps actually even of course. 

The culmination of my writing prior to focusing on poetry is T.S.Eliot and Henry Moore.

The short book is a concentrated study that is a series of creative prose poems.  

The information it contains would have filled hundreds of pages if written by an academic

literary critic. 

Poetry was the obvious next stage. It is a writing thing. 

I am currently producing what I call Poetry Stills.

 Very short poems for a book entitled Moments.

It will also include photographs by my grandson William Davis who is a photographer and


Haiku is a neat form that I have employed in several of my books. 

My Koan poems also inhabit this zone. 

I find Zen to be a comfortable domain of awareness and creativity.

Zen poets are the summit of the Sublime.  

Wang Wei. Hanshan. Ryokan.  

They were the Outsiders of their day.

But I am keen to progress further.  Deliberately I ended Nordic Zen with 

Journey beyond the future

Visit worlds beyond imagination

Discover sacred realms of survival

Understand the meaning of everything.

RZ. The City of London Quartet of T.S.Eliot  Books are intriguing. 

Intriguing and rewarding.

 I am unable to think of anything quite like them.

AD.  The style developed throughout their writing as deliberately personal and creative.

Conveying information in a simple and poetic way in short sections.

The four books cover a wide range of artists and writers.

Homer, Ovid, Malory, Rimbaud, Hesse.

Audubon, Kandinsky, Michael Ayrton, John Piper.

And a whole range of themes.  Architecture, Ceramics, Gardens, Photography.

Most of my coverage is original and does not appear in any of the dull conventional books by so called Eliot experts.

But do not get me started on literary critics.

There is no  mention Henry Moore at all by any of them.

RZ. What would you say are the recurring themes in your poetry? 

AD.  I suppose I try to deal with universal concepts.  

Time Memory Place Cosmology Mythology Reality.  

As well as the Everyday. And always with a touch of humour. 

It is possible to be too serious. 

Books should be enjoyable to read. 

Also to convey information. Most of my writing has to be carefully researched.

It is just part of my psyche.

Individual books are themed.  

Statue Time was my first poetry book and seems a bit overwhelming. So many words. 

I did not realise you have to write to fit the printed page for clarity. 

Poets need to be graphic designers as well. 

City Time  looks into the layers of history which are evident in every street and building here in the Square Mile.

Time also features in many other poems not least Existential Absurdity of Clocks.   

Mirrorscapes is about Language as well.  

Sublime Time and Nordic Zen both reflect calm and perfection 

Thinking Shapes is galactic Geometry and shares the Ambiguity of Unreal City Blues

Nostalgia for the Avant Garde is very much about Memory and Art. Autobiography.

I have just started a book called Time Zone.

Voyages across the temporal Cosmos 

Oblique explorations of everything ever

You must remember Casablanca

And beyond the notion of Themes

I always hope some poems become sufficiently creative

to attain the essence of their subject

Rather than just being about the subject

In the way that the Koan is a constituent part of Zen

Felicity Napier was very perceptive when she observed

The poems conjure up so many worlds

And when reading them one travels!

Perhaps Janus Poem has an existential position within time.

Kindness might even be what kindness is.


RZ. One area of particular interest seems to be Eastern Philosophy? 

AD. Eastern Culture has been the main focus of my thinking for several years now.  

Before that it was Existentialism. Sartre and Camus. 

The whole area of outsiders and creative Nihilism.

 Beckett, Pessoa, Hamsun. Right back to Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard. 

Albert Camus particularly seems to have made a deep impression on me.

I was in fact reading him at the time of the car "accident". 

He features in Solitary or Solidary and Sisyphus as Happy and Landmarks.

And there are allusions in other poems as well.

Such as the line Outsider in Oran Ayrton Asterion.

 Although I had read the Dhammapada my journey to the East probably began with the

source books of T.S. Eliot. 

Starting with The Hindu  Bhagavad Gita.  

Eloit  himself used a nineteenth century book  Buddhism in Translations .

An odd confusing little volume but at least its introduction points out that 

Sanskrit is a chaos Pali a cosmos.

Thousands of Sanskrit  texts have never been translated.

Eliot never ventured far into Buddhism before retreating into a religion instead.

It put an end to his natural creativity.

Kerouac journeyed further into dharma until he became tired and confused. 

Kenneth Rexroth was the supreme translator of the Chinese and Japanese poets. 

There is a problem in obtaining the Sutras and other works.

It is so good of you as Zimnol Books to track down and supply me with volumes 

Instead of the actual ancient texts , bookshops tend to stock only oblique commentaries.

And a lot of them are just plain loopy.  

I was a member of the London Library for forty years. It has a section of books in Sanskrit

which were fun to look at. 

Initially my interest was purely in the literature but the vast universe of Eastern philosophy is


Eliot was only half right when he said

It is not possible to be a Buddhist in modern society

As was Wittgenstein when he hinted that

You can only appreciate the literature of your own culture.

I find that a lot depends on your empathy with writers and their background

I am currently reading again Mahamudra texts of Tibet.

 Extreme profound Buddhism.  

They share with Taoism a domain beyond words and beyond thought. 

The mind creativity of nothingness.


RZ. In your Quantum Zen you find similarities between ancient wisdom and contemporary

physics as expounded by Carlo Rovelli. 

AD. There are passages in the Sutras which are almost identical to ideas in the latest issues

of the  New Scientist. I say in the poem that classical physics has given way to independent

thought and theory.

Quantum scientists today are questioning reality in the way pioneered by ancient Zen


As proof I use almost identical quotations from Rovelli and Bodhidharma.  

RZ. You have also mentioned  the everyday. I've noted allusions to popular culture and songs?

AD. Songs and poetry have always been linked. And everything moves faster today.

 I was not surprised when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

 Songs are also a collective unconscious thing.

 Readers are more likely to identify with them  than with medieval Tibetan mysticism.. 

And yes you will find  allusions everywhere. 

Isosceles or Sophocles feature both Clytemnestra and the Everly Brothers.

Home is Where One Dreams  links T.S.Eliot with The Mamas and The Papas.

It is a California thing.

And the poem California Cool is about the spirit of the place in the era of modern jazz.

Howard Rumsey Lighthouse All Stars.

Gerry Mulligan. Stan Kenton

  June Christy for me has always been the absolute sublime.  

The lyrics of her Midnight Sun by Johnny  Mercer is one of the great love poems.


RZ. What do you hope people will gain from reading your work? 

AD. Pleasure. Joy. Awareness. Delight in existence.