© Image by Norman McBeath

Edwin Morgan

(1920 - 2010)

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

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • 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 just before the first anniversary of the death, at the age of 90, of Professor Edwin Morgan, who held the post of Scotland’s first Makar, or national poet. To read this year's winning poems and a selection of "commended" poems, please click on the link above.
  • 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 pupils in Glasgow and also included in the Science Fiction exhibition, "Out of This World", at the British Museum in London. Contains a set of free downloadable teaching notes.

Select bibliography

  • The Vision of Cathkin Braes, William MacLellan 1952 - out of print
  • The Cape of Good Hope, Peter Russell, The Pound Press 1955 - out of print
  • Starryveldt, Eugen Gomringer Press 1965 - out of print
  • Emergent Poems, Edition Hansjörg Mayer 1967 - out of print
  • Gnomes, Akros Publications 1968 - out of print
  • The Second Life, Edinburgh University Press 1968 - out of print
  • Proverbfolder, Openings Press 1969 - out of print
  • The Horseman's Word, Akros Publications 1970 - out of print
  • A Double Scotch: Edwin Morgan and Alexander Scott, Claddagh 1971
  • Glasgow Sonnets, Castlelaw Press 1972 - out of print
  • Instamatic Poems, Ian McKelvie 1972 - out of print
  • The Whittrick, Akros Publications 1973 - out of print
  • From Glasgow to Saturn, Carcanet 1973 - out of print
  • The New Divan, Carcanet 1977 - out of print
  • Colour Poems, Third Eye Centre 1978 - out of print
  • Star Gate, Third Eye Centre 1979 - out of print
  • Poems of Thirty Years, Carcanet 1982 - out of print
  • Sonnets from Scotland, Mariscat Press 1984 - out of print
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet 1985
  • Selected Poems, Canto / Carcanet 1985
  • From the Video Box, Mariscat Press 1986 - out of print
  • Newspoems, WACY! 1987 - out of print
  • Themes on a Variation, Carcanet 1988 - out of print
  • Tales from Limerick Zoo, Mariscat Press 1988 - out of print
  • Collected Poems, Carcanet 1990
  • Hold Hands among the Atoms, Mariscat Press 1991
  • Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (translator), Carcanet 1992
  • Sweeping out the Dark, Carcanet 1994 - out of print
  • Collected Translations, Carcanet 1996
  • Virtual and Other Realities, Carcanet 1997
  • Demon, Mariscat Press 1999
  • New Selected Poems, Carcanet 2000
  • Racine's Phèdre (translator), Carcanet 2000
  • Cathures, Carcanet / Mariscat Press, 2002
  • Beowulf, Carcanet Press Ltd, 2002
  • Love and a Life, Mariscat Press 2003
  • Tales from Baron Munchausen, Mariscat Press 2005
  • Twenty-Three Poems, Association for Scottish Literary Studies 2005
  • Edwin Morgan Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2005
  • The Play of Gilgamesh, Carcanet 2005
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking at Rillie, Enitharmon Press 2006
  • A Book of Lives, Carcanet Press 2007
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.

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

Edwin Morgan's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

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


2000 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

2001 Weidenfeld Translation Prize

2008 Sundial Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year

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