Natural Mechanical

J. O. Morgan


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CB editions
1 April 2023
ISBN: 9781909585522

From the publisher

Aldeburgh Prize for First Collection, 2009
Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, 2009
Shortlisted for the SMIT/Scottish Arts Council First Book Award 2010
Poetry Book Society Recommendation

New edition, 2023; first published by CBe in 2009

‘Remarkable. A gem of a poem’ – Simon Armitage

Handicapped at school by his dyslexia and facing the strap at home, Rocky seeks out his own education from the fields and streams around him on the Isle of Skye. He develops an instinctive talent for improvisation: cord to snare rabbits fashioned from nettle stalks, a bicycle from scrap metal, a trip to France with just a few coins in the pocket of his shorts. Lyrical and continually surprising, this is a heroic narrative on a down-to-earth scale.

Natural Mechanical is wonderful – a memoir written in language that is cannily involved with the ordinary miracles of childhood. By looking hard and exactly at particular things in a particular place, it speaks to everyone, everywhere.’
      – Andrew Motion

‘Morgan has created a rare biography in a style so vivid it is clearer than prose. If those who never touch poetry tried a few pages of this, they might become converts.’
      – Rosemary Goring, Herald

‘Subtle verse and a feeling for precision of detail lie at the heart of the poem’s success. It is as if we were trailing Rocky, one step behind him all the time, and since the landscape and action are exhilarating the verse too is exhilarating . . . The remarkable thing about Natural Mechanical is that it is not the slightest bit quaint or sentimental. It is a shower, a veritable downpour, of fine particulars in a single robust life . . . It is one vivid gathering sensation in skilfully calibrated language.’
      – George Szirtes, Poetry London

‘The success of Natural Mechanical resides as much in what it avoids as in what it achieves. It is no Rousseauesque fable and its hero is no noble savage. In fact when a makeshift Heath-Robinson pulley breaks and his friend Harry falls out of a tree and has to be carried to hospital, we are almost in Beano country. And it is this ability to occupy the overlap between Thomson comics and The Prelude that makes this poem such a literally fabulous achievement.’
      – Times Literary Supplement

Natural Mechanical is a higher achievement than Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave, with which it has some similarities, because it is more finely written. The verse is spare, clear, almost without simile or metaphor, building its effects and narrative thrust by noting details precisely and moving on . . . The closest parallel I know is John Clare’s descriptions of country life. When he describes a badger being hounded to death or boys smoking wild bees from their nest, Clare is aware of rural people’s economic relationship with nature as a given. He writes calmly and precisely, without exaggeration or moralising, of events that simply are. In the same way, Rocky simply is and Morgan’s achievement in bringing him to life over nearly 70 pages with such respect and restraint is remarkable.’
      – Hannah Salt, Magma

‘This arrestingly lovely memoir’
      – Scotsman