Last week Katy of Chichester Copywriter went to hear distinguished local poet Alan Morrison’s first public reading from his new collection, Captive Dragons/The Shadow Thorns (Waterloo Press, 2011),at Chichester Library.
Alan, who grew up in Sussex, writes poetry very much as a response to society and has a number of literary influences including: William Blake, John Keats, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Alun Lewis. As well as a poet, Alan is the organiser of an online protest against welfare cuts and he’s even persuaded Caroline Duffy to take part.
His latest collection, however, is inspired by his time as Poet-in-Residence and poetry tutor volunteer at Mill View Psychiatric Hospital, Hove. Captive Dragons/The Shadow Thorns relates to Alan’s observations and experiences at the hospital and are a reaction to the lack of understanding surrounding mental illness. The idea behind the title is that a dragon is a mythical figure, which has an air of mystique, much like mental illness.
The evening began with an introduction from the evening’s organiser Barry Smith and then some guitar music from Linda Kelsall-Barnett of the Sussex Guitar Club. This was an unsettling tune, like sad bird song, which set the tone for Alan’s readings.
Alan started by reading from Captive Dragons, one long poem that has been split into cantos. Our creative copywriter observed some beautiful imagery including a “mesmeric pen”, a “lime milkshake sea”, and the “woodland’s bruise of bluebells in colourific surprise”. There was also more thought-provoking imagery such as “thoughts that thrum in hibernations of skull” as well as the more disturbing image of toilets as “slaughter closets” where patients have taken their lives.
Through such techniques, along with dense linguistics and sound, he manages to convey the deep complexities of thought that those with psychosis experience. He finished with readings from The Shadow Thorns before commentary from Barry and a musical interlude from Linda.
Open-mic readings from a range of local poets came next. This included a reading from Richard Davis called Tangmere Ghosts, a poem about our local airfield and the memories of the planes and pilots that were part of WWII.
Find out more about Alan Morrison here.