Praise and Poems
From 2008 to 2011, Morrison was poet-in-residence and voluntary poetry workshop facilitator at Mill View psychiatric hospital in Hove. His workshops provided a neutral creative space for inpatients to explore poetry and proved remarkably popular, many citing them as an essential weekly ‘lifeline’ contributory to their recoveries. In 2009, Morrison and Lead Activities Facilitator Nick McMaster secured a Sussex Partnership NHS Trust Arts Award to fund a publication of the distinctive writing produced through the workshops: the reversible double-anthology The Hats We Wear/ Blank Versing the Past (Waterloo, 2009/2010) resulted.
Morrison was then commissioned to write his own poetic response to his residency, the key work of which is the epic title poem Captive Dragons, a Laingian testament to the vastly nuanced, historically obfuscated subject of ‘mental illness’; its personal and social aetiologies, private and public implications, and the stigmas still tacitly attached to it today. Morrison’s core dialectical motif is the ancient phrase Here Be Dragons, once used on old maps to warn of possible dangers in unexplored regions: Morrison juxtaposes this with the relatively unmapped right hemisphere of the human brain, thought to be the source of not only psychiatric pathologies, but also the primal creative impulses which hold promise for their future illuminations.
Alan Morrison is one of the very few poets to have tackled mental health in poetry.
His poem shows both his erudition and his talent, blended in a Heraclitean flux, and
this publication puts him in the very front rank of poets writing today.
Alan Morrison has written the ultimate spearheading long poem to defend poetic reality, often clinically diagnosed as madness, but in fact pushing dimensions out
into the retrieval of a reclaimed poetics. In a brilliantly impacted, rich diction fused to a profoundly humanitarian sensibility, he has succeeded in writing the most
sustained poem about crossing frontiers of altered consciousness that I personally have encountered. He deserves our thanks.
‘Here be dragons of the head’s uncharted territories’ writes Alan Morrison in Captive Dragons, an extraordinary study of the ‘penned dragons, captive dragons …neither frightening nor fire-breathing’ who inhabit the wild edges of our societies. Morrison writes in a rich, rhetorical Miltonic voice, heavy with anger and prophecy. Exploring the world of mental health, he ends up writing about the mental health of our world, and the real dragons of our time — bankers, politicians, speculators — who lay waste to everything they touch. Magnificent stuff.