Keir Hardie Street - OUT OF PRINT

Allan Jackdaw, an unremembered early twentieth-century poet undertakes a fantastical journey on the hidden Sea-Green Line of the London Underground. Along the way he meets various shady and variously shaded characters - including the accidental capitalist Short Shanks the Shopkeeper, the scribbling Hermit of Hercules Buildings (William Blake), The Turpentine Prophet (Robert Tressell), and the Ghost of a Poet (John Davidson). When Jackdaw disembarks, he is in a secret, parallel London, a living, bustling socialist utopia. On Keir Hardie Street, the shabby figure of a baker's boy stares in awe at the pictures in a bookshop window...

In Whittington's city, 'mongst the Pillar'd Mansions
Of Wren's grand vistas and esplanades,
Another fire catching the wind ignited,
Not in Pudding Lane, but Lanarkshire,
Its touch paper smoking in the undernourished clutch
Of a baker's cadaverous delivery boy
Waylaid amid errands by sudden lightning flash
Striking him down in his tracks like Damascus:
A hoi polloi Paul on his way to St. Pancras...

An audio recording of Alan Morrison's Keir Hardie Street, read by actor Michael Jayston (Cromwell, Nicholas and Alexandra, Flesh & Blood), is now available on CD as an accompaniment to the book, and will be stocked for loan at the Poetry Library Sound Archive in early 2011. For order enquiries, please contact Alan directly at or visit for further details.



Then – well stone the crows! I scarce believed my pies
As I beheld the striking sign: KEIR HARDIE STREET
In pristine ivory lettering on glistening coal black;
For minutes the brilliant white words dazzled me till I felt
I'd topple from the kerb, trip like billeted Whittington
With baggage, tags and famished cat, cash–strapped n' class–scrapped
Only to rise tall and prosper –
         A vision I had lit
Before me in piercing mist on this hypnotising street,
Of its gifted namesake, his pit–face rise from Satanic
Collieries, Caledonian obscurities,
Into the light of politics, calloused hand campaigning,
Who strove to lift the people with winging words, help all
Prosper, not just kith and kin and his own interests but
Emphatically the whole – humanity primo franca,
Descended from the dust and ribs of Common–held Eden
Corrupted by lopsided scales of serpentine greed
Hissing scabrous syllables: Capitalism
Spouting from billboards on peeling city walls
Whilst Socialism muttered to itself in draughty halls!

...In Whittington's city, among the Pillar'd Mansions
Of Wren's grand vistas and esplanades,
Another fire catching the wind ignited,
Not in gutted Pudding Lane, but farthest Lanarkshire,
Its touch paper smoking in the undernourished clutch
Of a baker's cadaverous delivery boy
Waylaid amid errands by sudden lightning flash
Striking him down, a la Damascus,
A hoi polloi Paul on his way to St. Pancras...

Down the line from Christ the Communist,
'Our Head Leveller', as coined his cousin Baptist
(Though we can trace through Pisistratus
To Solon's 'Shaking Off of Burdens'),
A line of Visionaries, Radicals, Prophets
Strove to oppose the Draconic Rule of Profits,
Chivalrously crying Redistribution!
Thomas Beckett itching with idealisms in
His hair–shirt, sandaling beggars' feet; Robin
Goodfellow hooded in Lincoln–green stilling
The bow–hand; Wat Tyler striking Blackheath blows
Against an avatar of tyrants; Thomas More
Scaling castles in the air where star–eyed citizens
Lived according to their needs, as hermitic
Crab, the 'Mad' Haberdasher, consecrated
With sacraments of dock–leaf and ditchwater,
A mercury–dipped, wing–footed water–treader
Freed into being by shedding his living,
Unburdening his dromedary of shop and goods,
The very clothes he wore, to the un–preserving poor
To opt out from the Vanities as an anchorite,
Trip with invisible wings into the violent light
At that same–timed Buckinghamshire where Levellers
Delved ever deep in the scrubland velveteen,
Broad flapping hats plumed with Black and Sea Green –
The Diggers pitched a Golden Age at St. George's Hill,
Ploughed Cobham clod with egalitarian till;
Robert Owen's workshop co–ops hammered out a hew
To chop off Class's branches; the Chartist martyrs
Trampled by plumed hooves at Peterloo;
The red–hearted Romantics, courting Napoleonics;
The 'Poetic Upholsterer's class–transcending patterns;
The incandescent canvases of fired Pre–Raphaelites,
Frock–coated revolutionaries of colour politics;
Vincent's charcoaled labourers, cloddy pauper daubs
Worshipping potatoes on the blasted Borinage;
Scholarly colliers inspired in spiritless pits;
Marx's pamphlet–sweated 'old clothes–shop of ideas',
Synoptic Social Gospels long–pantomimed in
Galanty–shows of low–born pews and high–brow bowers
Where ever the Rich man shared hymned persiflage
With trembling soap–hands of Fabians;
Where ever the parsimonious Parson
Went hand in hand with the Mammon alms
Of the Owner of the glove–grabbed Land:
From this union of penny–pinching piety
Sprung the Chimera we call Charity!

Along the blurring margin of an endless British sunset,
An Empire merging colours to disguise feudal intent –
From And When Did You Last See Your Father?
To What shall we do for the rent?
Englishness disowns its own apple of radicalism,
Of windfall ideals, for starry–leafed shelter
In the groaning Oak's lengthening shadow.
Time again for Commoners' crop–head Opposition
To titled Abusers of Privilege – not
Seen since times of the tailed lobster–pot:
For a sullen and scowling class sitting apart
Is preferable to a besotted and unthinking class
Dragged hither and thither by unscrupulous guides.

Turn the other cheek, we may, but only after
We've over–turned the rustling tables and spilt
The stinging metals to the floor, turned stone to bread,
Water into wine, sent camels packing back out through
The swelling needle's eye, along with tyrannies,
Titles, honours, property, aristocracy and Kings,
Until the grind and clamour of industry is mute
And we hear Angels singing to the sound of dropping pins.


'Morrison is a poet who sticks to his socialist guns... and 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.'

Penniless Press

'Highly recommended.'

Tears in the Fence

'A strong, imaginative narrative which ventures into a world of Blakeian optimism, bringing his vision of Jerusalem into the present day.'

Norman Buller

'In a universe full of ten-a-penny poets Alan Morrison is the genuine gold-struck and ready to be minted article. He is a poet setting off on his own unique journey; one that many will want to follow.'

Gwilym Williams

'Morrison's work harks back to the pre-Thatcher social environment where some form of socialism or social transformation seemed possible and where the likes of E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams were given their due.'

Steve Spence, Stride

'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