'In the poetry of Alan Morrison we are witnessing the development not just
of a storyteller but of
a history-teller. Vast erudition and seasoned skills combine to weigh British realpolitik and the resistance to it on the scales. There is no false feel good in Morrison's message that history is both dream and nightmare, even as his long-lined mini-epics on such miscellaneous topics as Dale Farm, the firebombing of Freedom Bookshop, Tory austerity, cultivate the dream and pummel the nightmare. Morrison is channelling the class war with real
commitment and artistry'.
Tan Raptures comprises four mini-collections. Green Tinder puts Troika-shackled Greece in sharp relief against its ancient democracy; the Runnymede Diggers are juxtaposed with their 17th century harbingers; Los Indignados, with the ill-fated leftist Loyalists of Thirties Spain. Solon, Lilburne, Winstanley and Caudwell are some luminaries exhumed. Red Wilderness includes paeans to past radical figures, such as ‘Joe Hill’, ‘Wal’ Hannington, and "Red Vicar of Thaxted" Conrad Noël. Coventry Blue charts Tory domination of British politics, but also commemorates the Attlee hiatus and the didactic thrift of Pelican books. Tan Raptures transports us back to the present day of food banks, “poor doors”, “homeless spikes”, and the tragic “Wrag” fatalities of Tory “welfare reform”. The eponymous polemical poem confronts the social catastrophe of the benefit cuts, and pernicious Tory “something for nothing” rhetoric and hyperbolic red-top “scrounger” propaganda that brainwashed the British public into complicity. It is a verse-intervention of Social Catholicism, as epitomised by Pope Francis, in opposition to self-proclaimed ‘Roman Catholic’ Iain Duncan Smith’s despotic six year grip at the DWP. The title Tan Raptures plays on the biblical notion of ‘The Rapture’ –the ‘raising up’ of believers to meet their maker in the sky– satirising the ubiquitous ‘tan envelopes’ that strike fear into claimants as passports to a twisted Tory notion of ‘salvation’ through “sanction”.
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'A devastatingly powerful collection...Brilliantly written, acerbic satire.'
Disability Arts Online
'The “Red Shelley” of Paul Foot’s radical analysis, the anger of a Tony Harrison, and the dexterity of rap are all discernible in Morrison’s lengthy campaigns...' Martyn Halsall, Church Times
'...His texts combine lyricism and an inventive artistry with serious commitment, something rare in contemporary poetry and much needed at the present time...' Steve Spence, Litter Magazine
'Imagery is Morrison’s strength. In the title sequence we have ‘That August, attitudes hardened like tarred arteries, and austerity/ Throttled the wilting trees’, to set the scene for the political demonisations and bureaucratic cruelties he enumerates. Images like this energise the poems, and give a context to the sometimes obsessive detail. …These are breathless poems… passionate, wide-ranging, unashamedly fighting for the disenfranchised, in a time when the fight could hardly be more urgent. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how you classify… the utterance of this extraordinary, intense, much-needed poet.’
Ruth Valentine, London Grip
'Alan Morrison is rare among his generation on the current British poetry scene; he’s a properly provocative poet whose commitment to the ideas of socialism is passionate, erudite and convincingly argued. As befits a poet of the left, he’s angered by injustice of all kinds and writes intelligent polemic. Yet Morrison is not simply a ‘political’ poet in the narrow sense, he can be lyrical, humorous and inventive too. I hope he will be as widely and appreciatively read as he deserves.'
Alan Morrison’s eighth collection is a devastating and intense indictment of recent governments’ pursuit of benefit claimants. It demonstrates how the ‘tan’ envelopes dispatched by publicly appointed agencies embody that indiscriminate pursuit.
This deconstruction of injustice weaves itself around an intricate historical tapestry of other struggles by the poor and disenfranchised. ‘The Moving Rainbow’ retells the story of the Bryant and May matchwomen’s 1888 strike, still ‘a light against intransigent grains/ Of industrial night’. Later, ‘Going Dutch’ is a sharp satirical riff on the dismantling of welfare state funding; ‘each pays according to their means (or mains), ... the less/ their means then the less they’ll eat – or heat’.
Fifteen ‘Tan Raptures’ provide finely-wrought portraits of contemporary despair. For instance, ‘Shut Curtains during the Day’ exposes the government’s attempts to enlist people to spy upon supposed benefit scroungers. Like the theme of ‘The Bedroom Taxidermy’, the measure betrays no understanding of how people actually live. Finally, Morrison delivers a traumatic and moving roll call of many who have died, in the aftermath of receiving one of the dreaded ‘tan’ envelopes.
This dense and detailed book contextualizes deprivation, presenting a studied gallery of how it looks, and why it persists. While the energy behind Morrison’s writing is unique and derived from his acute sense of injustice, it never loses its humour and linguistic vitality. It’s above all narrative verse, which, with compassion, colour and extraordinary knowledge shows us the trajectory of lives that are determined and suppressed by cant and denial. Will Daunt, Pulsar
'Morrison has very clearly given long, hard thought to every line of his very, very substantial text. Here we have Marx’s “congealed labour”, where the poet does justice to his subject: condensed, not a wasted word, every rift loaded with ore. Morrison clearly reads history with a sympathetic eye, looking out for comradely parallels across the generations. I love both the content and the form of Tan Raptures. With regard to the latter, Morrison's prosody is beautifully right, the weight and rhythm of the syllables falling where they should, with no stumbling, as in so many other poets’ attempts at “free verse”. They are maybe “blank”, as in “blank verse”, but with patterning of assonances from start to finish, and other heightenings of language. As well as loving this book, I find it profoundly moving. The closing “Benedictions” had me sobbing at the kitchen table. Even now, writing this, I find myself so tearful I cannot see straight.'