THE RIVER WAS A GOD is a trilogy of poetry shows that were performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The first, SCIENCE, LOVE AND REVOLUTION features spoken word pieces developed through performance on the London spoken word scene over the years immediately following the Arab Spring.
London attracts people from all over the UK and from all over the world, different poetic traditions, musical traditions, different philosophies, religions and politics. The spoken word scene became a forum, kind of an international university – and a wake up call for me. I felt challenged to think about my deepest beliefs.
SCIENCE, LOVE AND REVOLUTION was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 and then featured at StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, and has since toured the UK and US. But the success of this show only made me realize that I had left important questions unanswered. I tried to address them in the two following shows.
The second show, BUILDING GOD, was a consideration of three revolutions, the Paris Commune, the Russian revolution and the Cultural Revolution in China. It was written with the attitude, “This is what I think. If you don’t like it, fuck off.” To my surprise, many people found the show both beautiful and challenging. A typical response was that although they did not necessarily agree with all the ideas, it made them think they should take a closer look, not just accept the establishment verdict on these revolutions. BUT, they often added, it could never happen again. Things had changed too much.
That was my challenge for the third show, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FLOOD. I wanted to imagine that it was possible. What would that be like.. especially, what would it feel like? The answer took the form of spoken word musical theatre:
A computer wakes up in the year 2035, on the eve of the world socialist revolution. Fighting has broken out all over the globe. For the first time, the US military has used tactical nuclear weapons on its own population. Suddenly, all communication stops. A new player arrives on the scene – a singularity, a computer exploding up into consciousness and fighting for sanity.
“David’s work is a lion’s roar folded neatly into a snake bite and mailed to the Aristocracy of the world with a note saying ‘Do not open ’til Election Day.’
“I’ve known David and his work for some time now and it never ceases to amaze. His themes are always current yet routed in history and experience. It’s sometimes a slap across the face with a feathered glove or a musical note played and held constant, lifting you to lofty heights and then just as you reach the edge of the stratosphere it cuts, and leaves you cascading downward rushing past all the moments you just inhaled on the way up.
“He is hammer and tongue, passion and revolution, rebellion and nurture all in a single pen stroke.”
Tshaka Campbell, poet and spoken word artist
“The River Was a God makes history dance in the page, the head and the heart. It is the product of hundreds of books and a careful dialogue between intellect and imagination, an un-ignorable contribution from one of the most important political poets in the field today.”
Pete (the Temp) Bearder
“David isn’t just a poet, he’s a surgeon, using verse as a scalpel to dissect the human condition, taking it apart word by word, delving inwards to reveal God living in our very molecules, the same force that spins the planets relentlessly fights for mortal breath.”
Clare Ferguson-Walker, poet and artist
“David Lee Morgan echoes the howl of Ginsberg, mixing Shelley’s passion for humanity with the revolutionary spirit of Che Guevara. I kid you not. David’s poetry is, like the man, a force for change.”
Matt Panesh (aka monkey poet),
President, UK Centre, International Theatre Institute
“About bloody time. Finally the release of a much awaited collection of works by one of the most expressive poets on the spoken word circuit.”
Salam Jones, writer
“David Lee Morgan is one of the only true revolutionary poets we have left in the west. These words will propel you from the very seed of our communal existence into a future we can barely imagine. David’s work is controversial, it’s provocative, while being astoundingly beautiful – everything poetry should be. And there’s a generation of poets who learnt the trade through this trilogy.”
Lisa Luxx, poet, essayist and activist
“The River Was a God has been truly captivating, from the very first poem and onwards. I hope it has a wide reach, it deserves it. Through David Lee Morgan’s poetry, the revolution is not just a thing of the imagination, he renders it real and tangible; a fair and just world that is on its way. And it starts with you.”
JJ Bola Writer, poet, author of No Place to Call Home
“David Lee Morgan is a poet/spoken word artist, whose brilliantly crafted thought-provoking, powerful and inspiring work pushes us as the audience to reflect on the life we are in. The River Was a God is a book in kind to David’s performances; I can hear and see him in action as I read each word of every poem.”
Nat Nye the Lyrical Alchemist
“David Lee Morgan… You can hear his voice in his written words, words that hold a quality of spice and youthful talent at ease. His structures come from the wisdom of one who knows not all knowledge is in the tell but the telling, too. He uses frank honesty to make you feel what losing love and gaining wisdom feels like. He teaches. He teaches the history of his beliefs and the transformation from one state of people’s revolution to another, what was lost and what was gained. With his societal politics he takes you to the future of a communist revolution, worldwide and still deeply personal, where truths are stranger than our everyday, easily understood fictions. The Morgan is a real life charter of life who brings all that to his poems, plays and shows. Enjoy that which is within… It’s a trip.”
Jah-Mir Early, improv poet
“His writing is ambitious, complex with visceral imaginings of the world around us, triggering autonomic responses compelling us to join a revolution, the revolution – any revolution that will result in a fearless dismantling of imperialist constructs. Yet not without hope, his vision is of a world where we all fit, where justice is the very air we breathe, and this is what will keep the reader reading and evolving.”
Nairobi Thompson, writer, poet and
Publishing Director – Nubian Jak Community Trust
“I like David both for his wonderful poetry and his radical political views. He is simply an important poet of this turbulent world. He screams out very often loudly, poignantly… as if these verses are set to shake many capitals around the world, but again he appears as subtle, as ambiguous.”
T M Ahmed Kaysher, poet, essayist and
director of the Saudha Society of Poetry and Indian Music
“David Lee Morgan’s writing could not be more incendiary if it was written on blue touch-paper. From the precision-crafted dialectics of Science, Love and Revolution, where I first encountered his work, to the psycho-spiritual philosophic enquiry of Building God, to the razor-sharp dystopian science fiction of The Other Side of the Flood, Morgan maintains a peerless revolutionary spirit of analysis and enquiry. He roots his impassioned and often devastating ideas and theses in classical storytelling and drama as much as the shock and awe of the spoken word.
“There are quite literally no other writers working today in the nebulous and ill-defined, often solipsistic and shallow field of spoken word poetry with a comparable rigour, depth and commitment in their writing. Flying in the face of the fetishised aesthetic of ‘direct lived experience’ – so often simulated and appropriated by lesser writers – his poems address a public and universal ‘we’; a bold artistic choice in an era of tightly-focused and divisive identity politics.
“David Lee Morgan is not just a writer, and these are not just stage shows, or a poetry collection – The River Was a God is part pantheistic manifesto, part monstrous prophecy and part searing counterculture doctrine. His verses are expressed with a grace and flow that reveals his musical background and knowledge of the poet’s craft. It is an essential publication in an era of throwaway tracts and pamphlets. Read it, share it, nail it to the door of your church.”
Bram E. Gieben aka Texture, Black Lantern Music