Funded by an Arts Council Grants for the Arts Award, Blaze a Vanishing is Alan Morrison’s fifth poetry collection, and his third with Waterloo Press. The Tall Skies links back in part to the ‘Swedish Suite’ of 2009’s A Tapestry of Absent Sitters but is a more far-ranging and sustained outing into aspects of the social, cultural and literary history of Sweden. There are poem-appreciations of such Swedish luminaries as Emanuel Swedenborg, John Bauer, Alfred Nobel and Ingmar Bergman. But Morrison’s primary focus is on the turbulent lives of some of the leading autodidactic talents of Swedish early twentieth century ‘proletarian literature’: Dan Andersson, Ivar-Lo Johansson, Harry and Moa Martinson. The vast, unspoilt Swedish landscape is celebrated; as is the egalitarian social ethic of Sweden’s classless society.
The eponymous second part of the book throws a torch-light over Britain past and present, ever arrested in a stalemate between instincts of progressivism, and a change-resistant ‘island mentality’. Contemporary England is viewed as a germinal for social stigma projected as a sacrificial common mythology to help camouflage the true agents of austerity. But this is an historical pedigree of judgment, and Morrison pays acrostic tribute to some of the forward-thinking cultural figures who were shaped, resisted, but ultimately appreciated by its hegemonies. Poets active during and in the wake of the last Depression —T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Alun Lewis— mingle with artists of other periods —Gustav Holst, Vaslav Nijinsky, Sylvia Plath.
The title sequence charts the ‘shadow lineage’ of British ‘proletarian’ literature, from the 18th to mid-20th century, via a dialectical materialist précis of the history of publishing as a class struggle for monopolies of reputation and posterity. This theme is the mortise from which both parts of the book dovetail; as is a concurrent focus on pre-suffrage female luminaries such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kata Dalström and Annie Besant —the latter two, posthumous figureheads for legion forgotten working-class women campaigners.