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'I remember thinking I should probably read something, just as in a bar you should probably drink something. I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, but that day I needed something stronger. I was so desperate I found myself in the poetry section. '
'The writers that grab me these days are those who pull and push not only at the limits of language but at those of form. Lydia Davis takes the already chameleon short story and whittles it down to single paragraphs, stacking sentences into collages. '
'Hugo William’s advice is that voice when I need it, as I often do. My job isn’t to get better as a writer, or to worry about how people will respond, or if they will respond at all. My job is only to do what I can: to show up every day, and start scribbling.'
12-10-2023

Jeremy Treglown speaks with Ann Morgan about choosing biographical subjects, the fallibility of memory, trying to tell real-life stories fairly and the experience of being a critic as well as an author.

As a young adult I discovered the Black American women writers, like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange and I followed the road of self-discovery. It was as if they knew me personally and understood me completely.
Writers who inspire me with their unstinting effort. T. E. Lawrence, who lost the only copy of his massive The Seven Pillars of Wisdom on a train and immediately began to write another version. Shirley Hazzard, who wrote thirty drafts of her masterpiece The Transit of Venus.
Reading T. S. Eliot, I saw the images, got caught up in the rhythms with no awareness of separation. Internalised is the word. But instead of losing myself, as happens in childhood reading, it was as if I were gaining a more intelligible sense of connection to real things.
Zora Neale Hurston left an indelible mark on me as a young journalist. I was first inspired by her book Tell My Horse recounting her audacious expedition in 1936 to Jamaica and Haiti where she documented life and folklore. I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
I studied the poem for rhymes, sentence structure, pacing, inversions. It was like an impossible staircase or mobius strip. The philosophical thinking that underpins W. S. Graham’s poem is so deeply wrought it manages to drive language open and apart, in language.
On my arrival in Britain in the 1960s, as a frightened little girl, I suffered serious racism, mainly at school, where my accent was constantly mocked. I had to lose my Jamaican accent overnight. Miss Lou motivated me to learn to speak Jamaican patois again.
I reached my destination. The beautiful, big-skied, bleeding mothercountry of Toni Morrison. Like all the greatest gifts in life, I swear she came to me rather than I to her. When I read Beloved the world tilted on its axis. It has never, thank god, tipped back.
Ntozake Shange, a Black feminist, in the 1980s, with her groundbreaking choreopoem play, for coloured girls who considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf created choreopoetry, a long- form, poetic-prose narrative written for the page and for performance.
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