Image by Norman McBeath

Edwin Morgan

b. 1920 d. 2010


the most dynamic, brilliant, free-wheeling poet around, endlessly accessible and inventive - The Scotsman

The Video Box: No. 25

Edwin Morgan

The Loch Ness Monster's Song

Edwin Morgan

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About Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan (1920 - 2010) was born and educated in Glasgow, where he returned to lecture in English Literature at Glasgow University after a period in the army. He was the author of many books, including poetry, criticism, essays, translations, plays and works of concrete poetry, for which he received awards including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and the Weidenfeld Prize for Translation; in addition to having been both Glasgow's Poet Laureate and Scotland's Makar, he was invited to write a poem to open the Scottish Parliament. Glasgow infuses his poetry, not restrictively, but as a fixed star that the poetry can navigate by, as seen in one of his titles, From Glasgow to Saturn.

A quick poet in many ways, Morgan is alive to the possibilities of life, and keen to celebrate them. The eponymous 'Strawberries', for example, begin a poem that goes on to rejoice in a love expressed in strawberry-flavoured kisses and the plate-cleansing thunderstorm; 'The Apple’s Song' is the call of a fruit that rejoices in the idea of being peeled and eaten. He has also a quick intelligence, of the kind that can whisk an argument along in imagistic leaps, such as the disconnected moments linked by the juggling and the juggler of 'Cinquevalli', and he shows a quicksilver mischief in his presentation of 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song'.

Morgan is also a fast reader, but it is this proof of his quickness that encourages attention and interest, and is always clear. His interest in theatre means he is able to bring out the dramatic structure present in some of his poems in his performance; the two voices in dialogue in 'The First Men on Mercury' are obviously different, but as their languages blend we become aware of their sameness too, with exactly the same kind of unease as the poem creates on the page. The Scotsman's description of him as "the most dynamic, brilliant, free-wheeling poet around, endlessly accessible and inventive" is accurate, and exactly what is to be found in this recording.

On his death in 2010, the U.K. Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, said that "a great, generous, gentle genius has gone. He is quite simply irreplaceable."

His recording was made on 5 June 2000 at his home in Glasgow and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Edwin Morgan's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"Poets are the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present." - P.B. Shelley

The Scottish Poetry Library has published its Edwin Morgan Archive online. It contains a variety of resources for teachers, and readers: www.edwinmorgan.spl.org.uk

Additional material and useful links

Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition 2011

The prizewinners in the fourth Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition were announced at a ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Wednesday, August 17. The ceremony was held...

http://edwinmorganpoetrycompetition.co.uk/index.php/winning-poems-2011

The First Men on Mercury

A delightful comic-strip adaptation of Edwin Morgan's "The First Men on Mercury", created for the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. It has been distributed to secondary school...

http://www.metaphrog.com/mercury/

Selected bibliography

The Play of Gilgamesh, Carcanet 2005

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A Book of Lives, Carcanet Press 2007

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at Rillie, Enitharmon Press...

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Edwin Morgan Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive...

Twenty-Three Poems, Association for Scottish Literary...

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Selected Poems, Canto / Carcanet 1985

A Double Scotch: Edwin Morgan and Alexander Scott,...

Tales from Baron Munchausen, Mariscat Press 2005

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Love and a Life, Mariscat Press 2003

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Prizes

2000 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

2001 Weidenfeld Translation Prize

2008 Sundial Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year

Prize website

Books & cds by Edwin Morgan