Stephen Morrissey: Interview Reflections

Posted by ashley

I wanted to wait until after all of Stephen Morrissey’s interviews before blogging, but I just couldn’t resist.  After transcribing the interviews I was even more engaged and astounded by Morrissey’s attention to detail and archiving techniques.  Morrissey described having a dream about memory loss and being enticed to begin writing everything down.  He started his detailed diaries at the early age of thirteen.  As he explained;


“I was probably thirteen and the first part of the diary is sort of a couple of pages that I typed about going to the hospital to have my tonsils out. Then I didn’t seem to do much until January the 14th 1955, then I really started everyday”


As a historian I found these diaries instantly captivating.  Morrissey went to numerous of the Sir. George readings when he started studying for his BA in Exploration 1.  He wrote down intricate details about locations, atmospheres and even detailed descriptions of poets including clothing and appearance. He attended readings by, only to name a few, Ginsberg, Rothenberg, Bissett, Purdy, Barrigan. Morrissey was also intrigued by technology at the time and bought a cassette recorder. He used the recorder to tape some readings and also, discreetly, some of his conversations with poets like Ginsberg. Numerous aspects found in his journals will fill in unknown facts about the Sir. George Poetry Series.

I also found it interesting was how the person in his journal became a distinct being. Morrissey would refer to himself as “this young kid” or “just some kid,” whenever he came across a funny anecdote or overly philosophical writing.  It seems that we sometimes remember our younger selves as completely different people.  I think everyone can remember looking back at an old photograph or video and thinking; “why was I wearing that?” or “I can’t believe I said that!”  These sentiments surfaced a great deal during the interviews and they added another alluring layer to his memories. The interview was unlike any interview I had done in the past; because instead of the interviewee trying to remember an event Morrissey tended to just look it up. However, this can create a complication because of the tendency to overly rely on the journal and resist straying into other memories.  The journal becomes the source of memory and it is hard to expand or comment outside what is written in text.

I look tremendously forward to the next interview with Stephen Morrissey and the light he will once again shine on unknown aspects of the Poetry Series. If you are interested in looking at these journals they will eventually be donated to his archive at McGill. The transcripts and audio will also eventually be available on the website.

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