Alan Morrison (poet)
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (June 2014)|
Overview of works
Morrison's work belongs to no particular school, but owes some debt to fairly unconventional (and largely Scottish) influences such as John Davidson and Harold Monro, as well as Welsh poets Alun Lewis and Dylan Thomas.
His work is often characterised by a strongly social and polemical tone, as epitomised in two of his long poems: Clocking-in for the Witching Hour (new revised edition, Smokestack 2010), which charts the thought processes of his father on a night shift as a security officer, through themes of ancestry and self-perceived failure; and the Blakeian Keir Hardie Street (new revised edition, Smokestack, 2010), in which a fictitious, turn-of-the-century, working-class poet discovers a Socialist Utopia off the dreamt-up Sea-Green Line of the London Underground.
Morrison's work can also demonstrate an acute empathy for mental suffering, as in his openly confessional piece Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever (2004), in which he traces the possible origins of his own obsessive preoccupations to a childhood subtly punctuated by Catholicism.
Morrison's most acclaimed work so far is Picaresque, a play for voices based on his experiences working at an all-male night shelter in Brighton, in which he juxtaposes the homeless "residents" with piratical alter-egos. The piece has been performed several times between 2000 and 2006, at venues including The Poetry Café and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, RADA. Comparisons have been drawn with Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood – (DADA South and Samuel French Ltd.), but in terms of subject and tone other reviewers have seen the work as more echoing the likes of Robert Tressell and Maxim Gorky (Andy Croft, Smokestack).
His 2006 collection, The Mansion Gardens, was nominated for the 2006 T. S. Eliot Prize by publisher Paula Brown and critically praised in journals such as The London Magazine and Other Poetry. His 2009 volume, A Tapestry of Absent Sitters (Waterloo Press) demonstrates a further radicalising of his already distinctive voice with a wide breadth of style and subject and nods to his own poetical and political influences.
In August 2010 Morrison compiled, contributed to and edited a collection of political poems entitled Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (Caparison press) endorsed by Caroline Lucas MP 
Morrison worked for over a year as editor and designer of Poetry Express, journal of Survivors' Poetry, (a mental health literary charity); a position in which he was able to promote the writing of other survivors of mental distress, most notably, David Kessel, whose collected poems, O the Windows of the Bookshop Must Be Broken, he edited, designed and prefaced. Since then, he has run a series of poetry workshops in his local community for mental health and disabled service users. In 2008 he gained an NHS Artists' Award to produce an anthology of writing through his workshops at Mill View psychiatric hospital, Hove (in 2009). Morrison was then commissioned to write his own poetic response to this residency, resulting in his epic work Captive Dragons / The Shadow Thorns, published in October 2011. His latest collection is Blaze a Vanishing and The Tall Skies (Waterloo Press, 2013), which was funded by an Arts Council Grant for the Arts Award. Much of this volume is about historical and contemporary Sweden, including poem-tributes to figures such as Emmanuel Swedenborg, Alfred Nobel, Ingmar Bergman, but with particular focus on the early 20thc. Swedish 'proletarian' writers and poets such as Ivar Lo Johansson, Dan Anderson, and Moa and Harry Martinson.
Morrison is founding editor of radical literary webzine, the Recusant and of the Caparison imprint which has produced the two anti-cuts anthologies Emergency Verse and The Robin Hood Book.
Morrison's poetry has been published in over thirty journals including Aesthetica, Aireings, Illuminations (US), The London Magazine, Pennine Platform, The Penniless Press, Poetry Salzburg Review, Stand (2010) and The Yellow Crane; and online at Great Works, Strix Varia and Snakeskin.
- Alan Morrison - Poems, Don't Think of Tigers - The Do Not Press, 2001
- Giving Light - Waterloo Press, 2003
- Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever - Sixties Press, 2004
- Clocking-in for the Witching Hour - Sixties Press, 2004
- Picaresque, a play for voices - Survivors' Press, 2005
- "Storming Heaven in a Book", a preface to O the Windows of the Bookshop Must Be Broken - the Collected Poems of David Kessel (ed.) - Survivors' Press, 2005
- The Mansion Gardens - Paula Brown, 2006
- Picaresque - The Pirates of Circumstance - (reprint) chipmunkapublishing, 2007-8
- A Tapestry of Absent Sitters - Waterloo Press, 2009
- Keir Hardie Street - Smokestack, 2010
- Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (ed. and contributor) - Caparison, 2010
- Captive Dragons / The Shadow Thorns - Waterloo Press, 2011
- The Robin Hood Book - Verse Versus Austerity (ed. and contributor) - Caparison, 2012
- Blaze a Vanishing/ The Tall Skies - Waterloo Press, Jan 2013
- Blaze a Vanishing - Revisited - Caparison (Nov 2013) ebook for World Literature Today 
- Alan Morrison website
- The Recusant ezine
- Smokestack Books
- Paula Brown Publishing
- Survivors' Poetry
- Sixties Press
- The Do Not Press
- DADA South
- Samuel French Ltd.
- Poems, Don't Think of Tigers at The Do Not Press
- Great Works
- Poetry Library
- Waterloo Press
- Strix Varia
- Article on Survivors Poetry in The Guardian
- Fighting public sector cuts with poetry article in The Guardian
- Red Pepper
- The London Magazine
- http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/keir_hardie_street_alan_morrison_i020821.aspx Keir Hardie Street, Inpress Books
- Alan Morrison, Keir Hardie Street, Smokestack Books, 2010, pp. 9-42
- Alan Morrison, Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever, Sixties Press, 2004, pp. 1-68
- http://www.therecusant.org.uk The Recusant eZine
- Alan Morrison, preface to O the Windows of the Bookshop Must Be Broken, Survivor's Press, 2006, pp 7-16