Wednesday 1 April 2009

A Tapestry of Absent Sitters by Alan Morrison

A craftsman and maker of finespun poetry, a young poet as deep as the black lakes of mythology and as fierce as the great dragon of legend, Alan Morrison is often to be found hunting through the physical and mental debris and detritus piled out of sight and conveniently out of mind in our darkest nooks and corners. But he is also a bardic detective, archaeologist, historian, nurse, doctor and apothecary.

Under the swiftly moving moon, bending past the university door, the mental institution, the drug clinic, the soup kitchen, the alleyway, the dockside, or the derelict factory, Alan Morrison is like Musil's Young Torless armed with an all-seeing eye and a notebook. The end result is the counterblast that comes at us from many directions. Sometimes from many directions all at once. It's his destiny. His mission. And make no mistake about it.

To read his latest collection is like a chocolate and champagne evening. A poetic luxury. And this is a strange contradiction for the poet is a Poet-in-Residence in a mental institution; he is a socialist in the true sense in his doing and thinking. See his website The Recusant. It is so.

The End of the Metaphor

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

T.S.Eliot, The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The leaky pipe of the basement flat
boarded-up across the road
squeals and rustles like a tattle of rats.
I've stopped by the hand-spurned railings trailing
steps of brattling leaves to listen,
be convinced of no infestation.

is an example of the way Morrison creates the mood. The poem goes on to examine, amongst other things, where the metaphors have their origins:

The brain, a garbled labyrinth of honeycomb
abuzz with bee-thoughts stumbling by their stings
bumping off walls like balls of string.
As long as there are ropes, one copes . . .

. . .

each tock-thought, a sweaty palmed haul up the bend
in slippery banisters, a hesitation
on the stairs . . .

One other poem to quickly look at is also full of grim and battered thoughts. It's a strong contender for favourite poem in the collection. It's about the great Welsh actor Richard Burton.

The Lion of Pontrhydyfen
i.m. Richard Burton (1925-1984) obviate the idea of the richness and extraordinary beauty of the world, I thought it was best to leave it.. - Richard Burton, 1974

Roman bust on barrow shoulders,
marble-sculpted mouth and brow,
leonine; stabbing blue-fire stare -
two Satanic labradorites.

Trajan's face reincarnate
as a pitted Co-Op pulpit boy
into a flinty mining village
choked in pits and damp-steamed hills.

Voice awash of ash and granite
splashing anger, rasping rage -
now vanquished angel's caterwaul -
now hounded scowling howl -
now stone-intoning chapel roll
grafted on the thumping page.

Flame blazed out like Zanzibar...
Cormorant...on his scorched tongue
singed by tar and brackishness;
a barstool bard of verbalese . . .

with obvious reference there to the fishing boats in Dylan Thomas's play for voices Under Milk Wood which Richard Burton recorded for the BBC. Moving on we come to more wonderful word magic,-

Visage, vodka-ravaged to
cratered moonscape, wasted cast
quarried out of rakish fame's
encrusted spine, harsh fags;
roar tamed to a smoky growl...
pockmarked god with white-licked sides;
a lion snarling its last gasped drags.

In a universe full of ten-a-penny poets Alan Morrison is the genuine gold-struck and ready to be minted article. He is a poet setting off on his own unique journey; one that many will want to follow. A Tapestry of Absent Sitters is a clear step-up from Morrison's well-received Mansion Gardens for it packs the anger and verve we've been anticipating, hoping would dare break-out. It's a great feeling to be in at the start of what may ultimately prove to be a massive career.

A Tapestry of Absent Sitters
by Alan Morrison
ISBN 978 1 906742 04 1
Waterloo Press (Hove)
95 Wick Hall
Furze Hill
Hove BN3 1NG


  1. Thank you so much for the ISBN and other information at the end of your post. That poetry certainly brought Richard Burton into sharp focus, if not back to life!

  2. Yes, he captures Burton well. We can hear the lilt and growl.

  3. How is it that some people manage to have such a way with words? His metaphors are so amazing and his words rattle off the tongue so well - one is reminded of Dyland Thomas - there are not many poets who write like this - I almost feel he could just write a list of words and they would be poetic because he would instinctively choose the right ones. Do you think this kind of skill can be learned - or is one born with it?

  4. Sorry about the d on the end of Dylan - my hand slipped!

  5. Weaver, for what it's worth I think you're basically born with it. Take for instance woodwork and metalwork lessons at school. I was hopeless. I couldn't make a dovetail joint to save my life. Even today I can't knock a nail in straight. My brother on the other hand can pull a motor bike to bits, clean it and put it back together in no time at all. Something he did once in the back kitchen when he was about 14. I wouldn't know where to start with practical things as I'm a person of thumbs. It's all a combination of aptitude and desire, I would think. I think everybody has different talents - or brings their different talents and possibilities into the world in their DNA or whatever. It's what makes us all different and therefore interesting to each other. I suspect that Alan Morrison soaks up words like a proverbial sponge. Although I enjoy writing and maquerading as some kind of poet I much prefer to read when and if I have time. I have a burning desire to get to grips with Thomas Bernhard's novel 'Extinction' but finiding the time is almost impossible.
    Dyland won't mind another d. He never refused anything as far as I'm aware!


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