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Submitted Literature

Captive Dragons/The Shadow Throns

By Alan Morrison


Alan Morrison is the author of numerous highly regarded and critically acclaimed publications. His poetry first appeared in the First Edition Asham Award anthology Don't Think of Tigers. He is the author of the excellent verse play Picaresque and three critically acclaimed poetry volumes: The Mansion Gardens (Paula Brown, 2006), A Tapestry of Absent Sitters (Waterloo, 2009) and Keir Hardie Street (Smokestack, 2010). He is editor of the literary webzine the Recuscant.

The anthology Captive Dragons/The Shadow Thorns is an intricate and intense anthology.  Written as a poetic response to his residency at Mill View psychiatric hospital in Hove the epic poem Captive Dragons testifies creatively to the intricacies and complexities of mental illness. The stigma of mental illness and its relationship to the institutional setting is powerfully evoked by complex metaphor and symbolism. This is bound within the historical and mythic tradition with a hallucinogenic quality. Packed with paradox and deeply politicized the poem will be of great interest to anyone interested in the relationship between the poetic and mental illness, stigma, creativity and the poetic impulse.

The second part of the anthology is entitled The Shadow Thorns. The poem The Shadow Thorns, contained within this section, is, as with all of the poetry within the anthology, highly artistically achieved. The poet has actively resisted simplification of mental illness and the psychiatric institutional setting through diverse references to metamorphosis and religious metaphor. The poems that follow The Shadow Thorns all testify to the diversity of mental illness through individualised and particularised testimonies. Deeply symbolic and highly worked the poems all depict fictionalised individuals within a hospital. They are highly nuanced, deeply political, and problematize the pathologization of mental illness within fiction through Morrison's detailed and highly charged resistance to the simplification of mental illness inherent in much creative writing.

The anthology is highly enjoyable and will be of great interest to anyone interested in the relationship between creativity, mental illness and the institutional setting. It covers a diverse range of topics and ideas through a kaleidoscopic web of synecdoche, historical allusion and paradox and its interaction with consciousness.

Key Themes:

  • Mental Illness and The Psychiatric Institution

Significant Quotes / Pages

'But the shadow thorns bloom under duress/Crouched between stones we plant, they grow, press/Against our glass absolutes, they trespass'.

'Next stop: the hospital for cluttered heads, reprocessing/Factory for this city's manufactured outpatients'.

'Beaten with punishing insights into polite societies;/Pickled specimens of NEET-reproductions,/Castigated by stigmas, humiliated by means-test,/Hung out to dry for their soggy clothesline lives...'

Reference: Alan, Morrison. 2011. Captive Dragons/The Shadow Throns. Waterloo Press, 2011


Miss Lindsey Morgan
Date Review Submitted: Wednesday 21st March 2012