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“Morrison’s rock star past haunts much of his writing, but his eye for detail and his razor-sharp sense of humor elevate his words into something much more than that — something visceral and anchored in the real world, whether it’s in the past or the present.”

Emily Burnham – Bangor Daily News

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“Morrison can be trusted to not waste your time; every poem is worth the read. It’s a perfect book for late night with a drink…”

Paul ‘Blowfish’ Lovell, Boston Groupie News

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CLUBLAND is a powerful, compelling theme book that examines the world of blue-collar New England rock and roll from the musicians’ point of view.  One poem says of the band:  “from Portland to Amherst to Hartford we roam.”   If you’ve ever followed a great bar band and hung out in these funky places, you’ll recognize them, and even if you haven’t, Morrison will make them vivid for you, with “the smell of Pine-Sol and beer and piss.”   All these poems are songs that pulse with juicy life, showing you the dancers “all holding on to the rope of the song” and up on the makeshift bandstand, “everyone dreaming of being a star.”  Don’t miss the terrific ballad “The Stranger.”  This collection will leave you feeling energized, buoyed up, sucked dry, exhausted, hungover and hopeful in turn, and finally, feeling that “all in all it’s good to be alive/it’s good to try, it’s even good to fail.”

Alice Persons, Editor and Publisher, Moon Pie Press

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“By tapping into his tumultuous past, Morrison has created work that is not only technically sound, but viscerally engaging. His is no passive verse; it grabs you by the collar and demands your attention.

Allen Adams, themaineedge.com

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“sharp, revealing imagery in crisp and subtle but tightly rhythmic language”

Dana Wilde / Bangor Daily News

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Dave Morrison’s narrative universe is filled with a lot of specific furniture that is abbreviated and vividly cinematic: poem/portraits that are Rock-bottom genuine, totally direct, and disarmingly moving, packed with human attitude and artifact. He presents a cast of lonely figures filled with shy hope as they swing between the desire for the companionship of others and the frantic attempt to preserve their integrity. His men and women inhabit a risky, often dangerous world where someone can easily end up ” a portrait drawn in chalks, / a beautifully wrapped empty box” …whose world can fit in the back of a van.” And in spite of failure can confirm: “All in all, it’s good to be alive / it’s good to try, it’s even good to fail.” And who even tell us heroically, “Wouldn’t you rather be free like me / with a life you can carry in one hand?”

Ted Bookey, poet / teacher


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‘Clubland’ vividly recalls small-time rock ’n’ roll scene

By Dana Wilde, BDN Staff

Anyone who brushed up against the small-time rock and roll scenes of the 1970s and ’80s (and, for all I know, the ’90s and ’00s) stands a chance of seeing him or herself vividly depicted somewhere in this little book. These 40 or so verse-cast vignettes, reflections and stories by Dave Morrison of Camden vividly evoke the atmospheres and characters of the rock clubs. Morrison is an expert, having played guitar in the bars of northern New England so thoroughly that he and I wondered in recent correspondence whether our bands had not played the same bill one night in Portland around 1981.

Well, it’s hard to remember, but “Clubland” brings back all the highs and lows. The best poem in the book might be “Come On,” an example of the sweet exuberance of the best moments of the rock and roll life: “She pierced his ear in the ladies room / a pin sterilized with Tanqueray,” while the band plays “crash and boom,” and then “she smiled and grabbed him by his wrist / ‘come on’ she said, ‘I love this song!’” On the low end, a guitar player, fading because “the sameness had anaesthetised the dream / til he forgot what he was pushing for,” stands by waiting for the bartender to close: “you can’t enjoy the highs without the lows.”

This book is strong evidence that poetry is more than just arrangements of words on a page. Despite some deviating meters, a few refrains that probably work better sung than written and some discordant enjambments, these open-form verses overflow with clear, strongly felt insight. Recommended reading for old-time denizens of Clubland. This book and others byDave Morrison are available through Amazon orwww.dave—morrison.com.

Morrison will be reading his poems at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Rockland Public Library and at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at Bangor Public Library.

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Maine poet to read from latest collection ‘Clubland’

By Allen Adams
edge staff writer
aadams@themaineedge.com

BANGOR – Maine poet Dave Morrison will be reading selections from his latest collection, “Clubland,” at 6:30 p.m. on April 19 in the Lecture Room at the Bangor Public Library. Admission to the reading is free.

The line between rock and roll and poetry has been a blurry one since that musical genre reared its lyrical little head five or six decades ago. The best lyrics have a real sense of poetry to them, while the best poetry is undeniably musical.

But how to bring the two together in the best possible way? Writing rock songs about poetry doesn’t seem particularly viable, although I’m sure plenty of sensitive guys with acoustic guitars have taken their shot. Dave Morrison tackles the problem from the opposite direction, writing poems about rock and roll.

The end result is “Clubland,” a series of poems relating Morrison’s long-standing experience with the phenomenon that is the “rock bar.” Morrison played guitar in a Boston-based band called The Trademarks that toured all over New England.

That experience of working his way through the seedy and sordid world of the working rock band forms the foundation upon which Morrison’s poems are constructed. He takes the big feelings that are born of the club scene – the pure love of music, the trials and tribulations of the rock and roll lifestyle, the naked desire for success – and condenses them into these dense, compact snapshots of that world.

We live in a world where poetry is always going to have to actively pursue an audience. For whatever reason, the poetic craft has lost some luster in its ongoing competition for the literary consumer dollar. One could also argue that the potential audience has already been severely slashed by television and the internet.

So the poet must fight back. And that’s precisely what Dave Morrison has done. By tapping into his tumultuous past, Morrison has created work that is not only technically sound, but viscerally engaging. His is no passive verse; it grabs you by the collar and demands your attention. It kicks in the door, puts its feet up on the table and turns the stereo up to 11.

There’s a raw energy to Morrison’s poems, one that will only be enhanced by hearing the words spoken by the poet himself. Having the chance to see that energy made corporeal is a rare one; no one can do a higher level of justice to a poet’s work than the poet himself. Add to that Morrison’s background in rock and roll and you’ve got a reading that offers something different.

Morrison is a talented poet. He tells tales filled with tense truths both terrible and terrific. And he is oh so very rock and roll.

For more information about the April 19 reading, visit the Bangor Public Library at www.bpl.lib.me.us. For more information about Dave Morrison and “Clubland,” visit clublandpoems.wordpress.com.

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“Morrison has no business writing, and yet he continues to do so.  Which is exactly why this collection rocks so hard: it’s about the dogged persistence of doing what we all had no business doing, and yet continued to do … on dance floors, in club bathrooms, in back seats, under tables.  It might not have been beautiful, but it was true.  And truth is beauty. And it rocks.”

Sharon Mesmer – author of Virgin Formica and Annoying Diabetic Bitch


This is no flowery prissy crap but succinct scenes with characters and situations we rockers have experienced”

I had hopes for this. A book of poetry focused on the rock and roll lifestyle — this could go either way. As it turns out, it’s right on the mark. Dave has the right voice for this look at Clubland.
It seems like Dave has remembered everything from his days in the Trademarks and put it to good use here. He never missteps in his wistful yet frank look at the bars, motels, managers, band members and girl friends that make up the world of Boston Citgo sign-Bunratty’s-hit Storrow Drive to get there rock.
He captures the moments with friends and lovers, bar veterans, music fans with fidelity. Time and time again the poems brought me to a place or feeling that was so familiar. Mysterious Gift has a point that reminds me of the way I feel in the middle of a great show:

“And just like that point when a plane leaves the ground
she’s no longer thinking, watching, aware
she’s swimming alone in a womb of sound
she’s simultaneously there and not there.”

Dave says in the afterward that he was trying to use this material first as a book but I like the way these scenes play out in short form like the piece called Come On. The short lines describe a scene that sticks in the mind in a way I think a prose version wouldn’t. One stanza goes :

“But a Saturday night should not be missed
these moments just don’t last that long
she smiled and grabbed him by his wrist
“come on” she said “I love this song!”

In Walking Home there is an image that the whole city could appreciate:

“The morning traffic jams up Storrow Drive.
like thoroughbreds bunched up along the rail”

There is more structure in the poems this time around but this is light material: it’s like a pop song not a symphony. Morrison can be trusted to not waste your time; every poem is worth the read. It’s a perfect book for late night with a drink and a good gift for someone on the scene.
We now have a poetry book that comes from Boston rock; how cool is that?

Paul ‘Blowfish’ Lovell – Boston Groupie News

“In this tidy, clever book, Dave Morrison seems to have packed the whole holy Club scene into the space of a cheerless SRO – and turned a nicotine stained light on the faces of his memorable captives. Fear not- for Morrison holds them only long enough to illuminate for us the physical and essential manifestations they embody- of a time, of a period … and of an EXCLAMATION POINT! It is well known that Morrison the poet can be at once kidnapper, and hostage negotiator- and yet he always gives what he demands. This is true of CLUBLAND- it’s a true story.”

Kathy Polenberg – author of I’m Your Field Trip and NJ Yellowed Pages

“Typically lovers of formal poetry and rock & roll don’t mingle, but in Dave Morrison’s Clubland they can stand elbow-to-elbow at the bar and cheer for the band.  Rock & roll has found its Poet Laureate.”

Luther MacNeal, author of Rhythm & Bruise

“Dave is a rare animal among poets. When you witness him reading his work, you see how his years onstage as a rocker have given him some unique skills that most poets lack. He is a wiley, energetic and sometimes puckish bard – he is the only poet I know who can pack a house.”

Joseph Barber – Owl & Turtle Bookshop

Dave Morrison was sipping coffee in his kitchen in Camden last Tuesday morning, and just before 9 a.m. flipped on MPBN to listen to “The Writer’s Almanac,” the daily broadcast made by Garrison Keillor.

Every day, Keillor’s program features the birthdays of writers and poets and accompanying biographical information, and a poem of the day. That day, Dave Morrison got to hear his poem, “The Guitar Player,” intoned by Keillor.

“It was a real trip,” said Morrison. “It feels like I made it, in a way. I’ve been swamped with messages since then. It felt affirming.”

The poem, plucked from Morrison’s latest book, “Clubland,” is a wistful, plain-spoken look into the life of a rock musician, embittered by years of slugging it out in the clubs. The book itself unfolds in equal parts like a memoir and a series of vignettes, telling the alternately sad and triumphant story of being in a band. It’s told from the point of view of a motley cast of characters, from the people onstage to the bar staff, the fans, the music industry and the hangers-on.

“I like to think of it as like ‘Spoon River Anthology,’ just in a dive bar instead of a cemetery,” he said.

Anyone who ever played in a band, or has gone to see live music, knows this world, and Dave Morrison knows it personally, as he was that guy for more than 20 years. The folks at “The Writer’s Almanac” must know that world too, because they picked another poem from “Clubland,” “The Club Manager,” to be read on the Saturday, Feb. 26, broadcast.

For the past six years, Morrison and his wife, Susan, have made their home in Camden, where Morrison is the technical director for the Camden Opera House. Before that, he was a rocker — though you could easily make the argument that he still is, just with words instead of guitars.

From 1978 to 1988, Morrison’s new wave/power pop band the Trademarks played all over the East Coast, from clubs in New York and Boston to smaller shows in Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Orono and, yes, Camden. They opened for everyone from Alice Cooper to Syl Sylvain, formerly of the New York Dolls. The band’s home base of Boston was a great place to be for a musician. Tens of thousands of college students were hungry to hear live music, and college radio broadcast local bands regularly, raising their profile.

After the Trademarks came another band, True Blue. Then Morrison met his wife, Susan, and the couple moved to New York City, where he played solo acoustic gigs and formed a new band, the Juke Savages. By the early 2000s, though, the rock n’ roll life began to lose its luster. And that’s about when Morrison started writing, and eventually moved to Maine.

“My wife came home from work and asked, ‘Ever been to Camden?’” said Morrison. “As it turned out, I’d played at this random place that used to be behind the Opera House called Mr. Kites. You’d play there, and then you could sleep in the attic. It kind of flashed on me this memory of this pretty little town. We moved here in 2005.”

Poetry and writing in general were something that always interested Morrison, but as a low priority, naturally, compared to rocking. He started out writing short stories, and even started on a novel, but poetry became his medium of choice upon moving to Camden.

“It was a nice, weird gift. It’s a continuation, in some ways, of what I was doing with music, just in a different medium,” he said. “I came to poetry through the people who were my poets, like Dylan and Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen and Richard Thompson. I never studied it at all. I never went to college. I never did an MFA. I just liked what I liked.”

In the past six years, Morrison has released five books of poetry, including “The Lonely Life of Spies,” “Sliver,” “Brand New Day,” “Sweet” and “Black Boat Black Water Black Sand.” Morrison’s rock star past haunts much of his writing, but his eye for detail and his razor-sharp sense of humor elevate his words into something much more than that — something visceral and anchored in the real world, whether it’s in the past or the present.

Between June and October 2010, he wrote the poems that comprised “Clubland,” which constituted a break for him stylistically, in that the poems are written in verse.

“This last book forced me to write in verse, and write in rhymes, and what I discovered was that it really was a lot like songwriting,” he said. “Song has a form, and it turned out to have this strange familiarity. The path your synapses are taking is recognizable. My brain knew what I was doing already.”

“Clubland” is a bit of a love song, in some ways, to believing in rock, and believing in a dream. Even if that dream of rock stardom never comes to fruition — even if the main goal is breaking even and still having beer money left over after the bills are paid. “Clubland” is for all those bands you’ve never heard of.

“There are all these books about U2 and Bruce Springsteen and bands that are huge,” said Morrison. “What about the other 99 percent of bands that don’t make it? That’s what I’m writing about. That’s who this is for.”

Dave Morrison will read with poet Dawn Potter on April 14, at Rockland Public Library, and on April 19 he will read “Clubland” in its entirety at Bangor Public Library. For information on Dave Morrison and his books, visit clublandpoems.wordpress.com/.