Pete Morgan – POET: Born 7 June 1939 and died 5 July 2010.
Photo © Kippa Matthews
Pete Morgan was a Lancastrian by birth and Yorkshireman by adoption and was a professional poet. At 16 he was living alone in London – pinning his anonymous poems to the trees on Hampstead Heath. Two years later he was serving as an Infantry platoon commander in West Germany. In 1964 he became a confirmed pacifist and resigned his commission. He moved to Edinburgh. There, encouraged by events at the Traverse Theatre, he began to publish his poems and give public readings for the first time. His first two pamphlets were published in Scotland.
In 1971 he returned to the North of England, to live and work in the Yorkshire fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. In the same year a selection of his work was published in London by Faber & Faber. His first full-length collection, ‘The Grey Mare Being The Better Steed’, appeared from Secker & Warburg in 1973. This was followed by ‘The Spring Collection’ (1979), ‘One Greek Alphabet’ (1980). Morgan’s most recent collection of poems, ‘A Winter Visitor’, celebrated the Robin Hood’s Bay area of North Yorkshire and was hailed by The Observer as ‘something of a triumph… the rhythmical energy is a delight, but much else derives from the spare Northern realism which Morgan sets down so accurately.’
The same Northern realism also led to the success of his BBC Television series – ‘A Voyage Between Two Seas’, a water-borne journey across Northern England, and ‘The Grain Run’, a retracing of the Roman supply route from East Anglia to the Yorkshire town of Aldborough. (Isurium Brigantum). One of Morgan’s main interests lay in the oral tradition of poetry and song and his poems have been set to music and recorded by numerous artists including Al Stewart, The McCalmans, John Martin and The Levellers.
In performance Morgan had few rivals. His command of his craft and his extraordinary delivery transfixed his audience – ‘The first lines of his poems seemed to set off a chain of hidden explosions within him. He twitched. He swayed. He stomped. He burned. He looked genuinely relieved and exhausted when it was all over, like a man who had climbed an emotional mountain.’
Pete Morgan’s poetry was celebrated with a special concert at York University in May 2009 (presented by The Shed) and featured readings by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Ian McMillan and a first-time, once-in-a-lifetime, magical improvised words and music duet with Martin Carthy.
“There are famous poets of my generation and younger who have no idea of the debt they owe to Pete Morgan. His poems are dramatic, formally superb, funny, toughly tender, lyrical and never less than entertaining. Ted Hughes was a fan of his.” Carol Ann Duffy
Pete spent his last days in St. Leonard’s Hospice in York and his son Martin is running to raise money for hospices. Please help him reach his target by making a donation here:
The Bullfinch & the Buffalo
‘I met her quite by accident –
the good friend of a friend who went
to market in the market hall
the day I went. That’s all, that’s all.’
‘There was some faint affection when
I saw him stand among the men
that friday afternoon. His style
was different, at least. That smile!’
All that was years and years ago
before both man and wife could know
how one harsh voice would say ‘goodnight’,
and one hand clatter out the light.
© Pete Morgan 2000
The fire won’t spit. It will only glow.
The lamp throws a shadow to the wall.
The whole of the world is this one room
Where someone yawns. The clock’s impatience
Throws a loud voice to the round world’s rim.
Somebody sleeps, a head grows heavy.
The unknown dream is disconnected
By that quick cut: to fact from fiction.
Somebody wakes and arises, shifts
The unknown world to the next known world.
© Pete Morgan 1998