"With this book I feel that I am confronted by a category-breaker – a work that bridges the gulf between the passion of poetry and outrage, and the analytical precision of a major historian and political theorist. ... Shabbigentile is no ‘easy read’: rightly so, because it embraces the tortured complexities of all the gigantic issues involved. It gives poetic tension to painful public issues. It radically challenges the boundaries between so-labelled ‘Literature’, ‘Poetry’, ‘Politics’ and ‘Economics’. It should be read, marked, and inwardly digested by all parties, in all those areas." Dave Russell
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Alan Morrison’s Shabbigentile is a counterpoint to his Forward-nominated Tan Raptures (Smokestack Books, 2017), many of its poems having been written during the same period and on complementary polemical themes. From the ominous economic stormclouds of the banking crash, through eight years of scarring austerity cuts, to the potentially catastrophic cross paths of ‘Brexit’, Trump and the insurgent European-wide right-wing populism of the present.

Shabbigentile is populated by assorted grotesques, memes and leitmotivs, distinctly native to the turbulent and polarised Noughteens: the sweatshop barista, the coffee bean Corbynista,
the Dole Jude and Welfare Jew, the Five Giant Shadows and Five Evil Reverbs, and the homegrown ogre of the title. These part-organic, part-figurative amalgams inhabit the wastelands of asset-stripped Britain, where Tory and red top propaganda against the unemployed is a scapegoating pseudo-science (Scroungerology), and the DWP’s weapons of brown envelopes are transposed as Salted Caramels. From such hostile environments we jump to the dystopian atmospherics of a post-Brexit tinpot RU-RI-TANNIA which sees Easter Island heads sprouting from the white cliffs of Dover.

"THERE is a long poem in Alan Morrison’s fantastic new collection Shabbigentile (Culture Matters, £9) about the 1930s Left Book Club, invoking the idea of “red belles-lettres ringing red bells/Of rebellion... Now once more books need to be mobilised..." In many ways the whole collection is about mobilising books as “print-antidotes/To right-wing hegemonies.” And in a book thick with references to Jack London, Charles Dickens, Gyorgy Lukacs, Henri de Saint-Simon and John Davidson, Morrison knows that the best books are on our side. As always, his poetry is dense, eloquent and rich with information, ideas and arguments. There are some important long poems here, notably Another Five Giants, about Tory and New Labour attacks on the welfare state, Not Paternoster Square, on the Occupy movement and St Jude and the Welfare Jew, which tackles racist tabloid newspapers accusing Jeremy Corbyn of anti-semitism. The title of the book is a play on “shabby genteel” and an attack on the ways that a nominally Christian society like Britain contains the forces of neoliberalism, austerity, racism and fascism within it: “red-top parrots of blue torch opinions/Igniting blue-touch tabloids, cropped topics,/Pre-packaged antagonisms, analgesic/Propagandas, austerity narratives... rabid Malthusians and poison pen Mendelists.”
Andy Croft, The Morning Star
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