Keir Hardie Street
Smokestack Books, 2010
96pp, perfect bound paperback, £7.95
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2011 TILLIE OLSEN AWARD
Working Class Studies Association, USA
Prakash Kona, Stride
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
'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 Dent, The Penniless Press
'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...
Gwilym Williams, Poet-in-Residence
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
Judge, 2011 Tillie Olsen Award, Working Class Studies Association, USA
'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'
'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 –'
'A strong, imaginative narrative which ventures into a world of Blakeian optimism, bringing his vision of Jerusalem into the present day.'