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Virtual and Other Realities – 19

Edwin Morgan, 6 January 1994

... He’s killed his father, don’t know it yet but will. Red hands grip crusts till he has scoffed his fill. The tight cords hurt his body – not his will. Bandit, savage, reiver, devil, scum – he’s saddled with his titles till kingdom come. To him, useless resentment’s long gone numb. His eyes pierce through his own darkness; his skin is windburnt, dirtpocked; black hair thick, face thin, his frame all sinew and hunger ...

An Old Woman’s Birthday

Edwin Morgan, 3 February 2005

... That’s me ninety-four. If we are celebrating I’ll take a large Drambuie, many thanks, and then I’ll have a small one every evening for the next six years. After that – something quick and I’ll be off. A second century doesn’t entice. When I was a girl, you thought you would live for ever. Those endless summer twilights under the trees, sauntering, talking, clutching a modest glass of grampa’s punch diluted to suit young ladies – diluted? it didn’t seem so! the crafty old man loved to see us glowing, certainly not swaying but just ever so slightly, what do you say, high ...

The War on the War on Terror

Edwin Morgan, 9 February 2006

... This woman, I heard her say she could not bear To bring a child into a world so dreadful It scoops up smoking body parts like that. Did she mean she would rather leave them lying? Of course not, that’s just twisting what she says. Well, let’s be blunt, let us be damnably blunt. Would you rather not have a baby in a body-bag, Are you listening! – bits of a baby In a body-bag, would you rather not have that, Not see that, not touch that, not know that, Is it too much for you, for your sensibilities, Come on, I know what I am talking about, I have been right through life like an arrow ...

The Old Man and E.A.P

Edwin Morgan, 7 July 2005

... He is not sleeping, though you might think so. His eyes are half shut against the light. ‘An old man’s nap.’ They smile, walk softly on. He is smiling too, but mentally. Without a twitch, he is on dragonback above Edgarallanwood – what’s in a name – getting ready to rein in on the low moon. It was a certain very dark exhilaration played invisibly along his lips, or a dark pride in riding such a beast perched among its spikes and rolling folds as it swished through cypresses, topped them, kicked them, flicked them with a thundery tail out below back down into men and all that, last dog-walk of the day, hurrying, whistle and whoop through Edgarallanwood ...

Pelagius

Edwin Morgan, 4 October 2001

... I, Morgan, whom the Romans call Pelagius,Am back in my own place, my green Cathures*By the frisky firth of salmon, by the open seaNot far, place of my name, at the end of thingsAs it must seem. But it is not a dreamThose voyages, my hair grew white at the tiller,I have been where I say I have been,And my cheek still burns for the world ...

Two Poems

Edwin Morgan, 18 June 1998

... The Demon at the Frozen Marsh I have been prowling round it. Nothing moves. The winter fields are hard, half-white. There is something fogged and hoary about But it won’t settle. I would be stiff If I failed to circle. As it is, My crest tingles. I am not in gloom. The low sun paints me – I stare at it – A sort of leaden gold along my joints. I lift a hand spilling indescribable metal Over the shallow crust of ice on the pond ...

Four Poems

Edwin Morgan, 22 June 2000

... Junkie The old suspension bridge was shaking. The junkie on the rail was making One last hazy calculation, Climbed over, dropped his desperation With his body. The grey river Closed on thin flesh and thin shiver. He had not thought there was a boat, A boatman, looking for the float Of life to save or drowned to gaff Or some poor soul who’s half and half Glazed between heaven and earth to pump Till the hushed heart begins to jump, Or not ...

Louis Kossuth

Edwin Morgan, 6 June 2002

... This is not the Great Hungarian Plain But I can be almost content here in Turin Watching the sparrows at their dust-baths and the sun Splashing new factories with bright hard light – It goes, this place, it hums, it buzzes, capital Of Italy’s long-sought unity, ex-French As Hungary is oh, not yet, ex-Austrian! The Danube can only flow through my dreams ...

Byron at Sixty-Five

Edwin Morgan, 8 January 1987

... The rumour of my death has long abated. The Greeks still love me, but I don’t love Greeks Except for one – or two; I must be fated To wander and to change; when the mast creaks I smell the salt and know my soul unsated Until it finds the language no man speaks. And what is that? some simpleton demands Who’s never heard the seething of the sands ...

Giant Goody Goody

Edwin Morgan: Fairytales, 24 May 2001

The Complete Fairytales 
by George MacDonald, edited by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Penguin, 354 pp., January 2000, 0 14 043737 1
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Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairytales and Femininity 
by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Chicago, 444 pp., £24.50, June 2001, 0 226 44816 9
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... A fairytale, whatever messages may be inserted into it or teased out from it, is a tale of marvels. A cat struts past in boots. A demon swells out from a lamp like steam from a kettle. A princess cannot sleep because a pea below her twenty mattresses is hurting her. A prince is metamorphosed from a frog (the poet Norman MacCaig used to say it would be even better if a frog metamorphosed from a prince ...

Watermonster Blues

William Wootten: Edwin Morgan, 18 November 2004

Edwin MorganInventions of Modernity 
by Colin Nicholson.
Manchester, 216 pp., £40, October 2002, 0 7190 6360 4
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Beowulf 
translated by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 118 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 588 5
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Cathures 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 617 2
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... newspaper poems, Beat poems, concrete poems, sound poems and sonnets burst out of the pages of Edwin Morgan’s Collected. If he can’t do everything, it’s not for want of trying. Now in his eighties, Morgan is the most influential Scottish poet since Hugh MacDiarmid. Partly because his prose statements and ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford, 20 April 1989

Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... to see home as a ‘provincial’ bore, there have been poets around for some time, such as Edwin Morgan and Roy Fisher, who give the lie to that. Home is no longer ‘so sad’. At home few people speak Proper English all the time. Home-based poetry may be in dialect, which is present in nearly all the writers considered here: but it may also fuel ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... unless ‘Thrawn Janet’ or the melodramatic boldness of Jekyll and Hyde left their mark. Edwin Morgan has chosen well from the earlier satirical poetry of Scotland, the strengths of which show up his contemporary selection to its distinct disadvantage. Henryson, Dunbar, Lyndsay and Montgomerie blaze off the page. Drummond’s ironic ‘A ...

Sssnnnwhuffffll

Mark Ford, 19 January 1989

The Irish for No 
by Ciaran Carson.
Bloodaxe, 63 pp., £4.95, July 1988, 9781852240752
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On Ballycastle Beach 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 59 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 0 19 282106 7
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Themes on a Variation 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 166 pp., £6.95, May 1988, 0 85635 778 2
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Metro 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 68 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 0 19 282096 6
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April Galleons 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 97 pp., £8.95, June 1988, 0 85635 776 6
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... The political dimensions of most Irish poetry are rarely as pronounced in mainland British verse. Edwin Morgan and George Szirtes are both willing to expand their poetics beyond its traditional range. Morgan has always delighted in maverick experiments both with the typewriter and with scissors-and-paste, and his new ...

One word says to its mate

Claire Harman: W.S. Graham, 4 October 2001

The Nightfisherman: Selected Letters of W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Snow and Margaret Snow.
Carcanet, 401 pp., £12.95, November 1999, 1 85754 445 5
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... from each new position gained. ‘What do I write to say? I don’t know,’ he complained to Edwin Morgan in an undated letter (probably from the early 1950s). ‘The kind of poem I want to write is very far away from even TNF’ – ‘The Nightfishing’ – ‘I know more about poetry than I’ve ever done before. Maybe that is what is wrong but ...

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