Keir Hardie Street

96pp, perfect bound paperback, Smokestack Books, 2010, £7.95

ISBN 978-0-95609341-6-8/ Includes: Keir Hardie Street (with extensive footnotes), 'Widdershins Edwardiana?' and 'Clocking-in for the Witching Hour' (new and revised edition)

Working Class Studies Association, USA

Allan Jackdaw, an unremembered Edwardian poet, undertakes a fantastical journey on the hidden Sea-Green Line of the London Underground. Along the way he meets the accidental capitalist Short Shanks the Shopkeeper, the Hermit of Hercules Buildings (William Blake), The Turpentine Prophet (Robert Tressell), and the Ghost of a Poet (John Davidson). When Jackdaw disembarks at Keir Hardie Street, he is in a secret, parallel London, a living, bustling socialist utopia...

  Born in a haunted corner of Scotland, of kelpie-
  Humped lochs and Pan-piped galloping woods,
  Close to Claverhouse's groomed dragoons;
  Illegitimate son of a servant-girl from Legbrannock,
  Step-sired by an atheist carpenter,
  Schooled in obscurity's cramped one-roomed house,
  Raised on porridge oats and Robbie Burns --
  Fuelled him on compassion's damp-steaming anger --
  Fired in the pit of his belly's grumbling brogue...

Some Review excerpts

Alan Dent in The Penniless Press
Morrison's technique is different from the ethos of understatement which dominates modern poetry. Rather than shortening the leash on the poetic poodle he sets his Rottweiler free. The language freewheels and tumbles. It piles up like the traffic on a bank holiday motorway. The effect can sweep you along. The second half of the collection explores the horrors of night-shift working. ...There is an echo of Fred Voss here and much recognition effect. Morrison is a poet who sticks to his socialist guns (metaphorically of course) and who has the chutzpah to pump up his language till it almost bursts. No-one could accuse him of being a slave to the modes of modern writing.

Alan Morrison And The 'Conscience-Ridden' Tradition Of British Socialism by Prakash Kona on Stride 
...The power of Morrison's book partly emerges from the fact that it takes a clear stand by opening with Oscar Wilde's quotation from The Soul of Man under Socialism ... Modernist influences especially Pound and Eliot can be observed in how Morrison uses the technique of evoking history through places to suit the central argument of the poem. Keir Hardie Street is guided by passionate conviction; although like a true modernist Morrison never sacrifices form to content. ... How movingly Morrison recreates the vision of a socialist world where individualism blossoms as embodied in the life and personhood of the legendary Keir Hardie ... British Socialism is as much British as it is socialism. Its unique character can be seen in the personality and work of Johnson, Blake, Dickens, Wilde, Chaplin and John Lennon. The poem recreates the spirit of British socialism that is about believing in a conscience and awakening it through a politics of what is right as opposed to what is wrong. ...Something of Blake's indignation in 'Holy Thursday' combined with Swift's bitter irony...

[for the full review click here]

by Gwilym Williams on Poet-in-Residence
...There are three long poems in this 96-page book. The title poem Keir Hardie Street is comprehensively annotated and every difficulty and nuance is explained. We see here the mind of the poet at work. His raw material sources are laid bare. There are no clever tricks up the sleeve. The character of the fictitious narrator Allan Jackdaw is based on Robert Tressell (and also the poet John Davidson). The method used is impasto; a thickly applied impressionist method used by painters. The result, like some of Morrison's previous work, is almost Dylanesque (after Dylan Thomas that is); it's a read aloud 908 line piece that you can perform at home for yourself, or even for a gathering of friends at your local pub. It's a kind of play for voice/s. Keir Hardie Street is a book that demands to be read closely and slowly. It has a lot to offer; the sounds, the imagery, the articulations, the music; it is all there to be enjoyed... [for the full review click here]

More review excerpts to follow soon from the Morning Star,
and Tears in the Fence....

An audio CD of an abridged version of Keir Hardie Street read by celebrated film, stage and television actor, Michael Jayston,
is now stocked for public borrowing at The Poetry Library sound archive...

In the three long poems that make up this astounding collection, Morrison layers sense imagery, UK labor history, and the stories of individual workers to create a richly imagined, forcefully wrought, and poetically masterful revolutionary work.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
Author of Work Is Love Made Visible (West End Press, 2009)

The eight lines excerpted in a Tears in the Fence review made that issue worth reading alone. The only other poet I can think of who has so absolutely captured London is Blake.
Barry Tebb

One of the most gifted poets of the Left
Niall McDevitt

Keir Hardie Street really
is something else... It's
up there with the likes of Walcott. I do love its verbal cartooning... But I love above all else the voices and the vision of this modern masterpiece –
John O'Donoghue

A strong, imaginative narrative which ventures into a world of Blakeian optimism, bringing his vision of Jerusalem into the present day.
Norman Buller