17 Poems of Edwin Morgan: A Commentary

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Edwin Morgan is one of Scotland's most distinguished poets. Born in Glasgow in 1920, he served in the Second World War as a medical orderly and lectured in English Literature at Glasgow University until his retirement as a Professor in 1980. Since then his reputation as a poet has grown both within Scotland and beyond. His celebration of his native city brought him the honour of Glasgow Poet Laureate, and in 2004 the Scottish Executive recognised him officially as modern Scotland's first national poet, with the title of Scots Makar. The poetry of Edwin Morgan is so varied and original, filling a series of volumes spread over more than fifty years, that it cannot be fully reflected in a single critical compilation. This skilful commentary focuses on two contrasting sides of Morgan's work, his highly popular poetry mainly centred on the life of his home city of Glasgow and the poetry coming out of his fascination with space and science. It is a contrast that Morgan himself highlighted in the title of one of his most successful collections, From Glasgow to Saturn (1973). The Glasgow poems represented here are: 'To Joan Eardley', 'In the Snack-bar', 'Trio' and 'For Bonfires'. There are also three of his Instamatic poems, poems which focus on and capture like a snapshot a particular significant moment of time. 'One Cigarette' and 'Strawberries' are two of Morgan's love poems, celebrating the power of love between two people, love which in Morgan's case happened to be homosexual but which is of the widest human significance within the poems. The Saturn poems include two specific science fiction poems, 'From the Domain of Arnheim' and 'In Sobieski's Shield'. Morgan's playful approach towards language and his engaging sense of humour are illustrated by 'The Computer's First Christmas Card', 'The Mummy' and 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song'; and 'Message Clear' is one of Morgan's Emergent poems, in which the lines of the poem 'emerge' from a significant phrase. 'The Archaeopteryx's Song' examines the question of evolution, also in a humorous way, while, by contrast, 'Hyena' shows us another creature in a sinister and menacing light. All these poems are drawn from collections published before 1982, notably This Second Life (1968), Instamatic Poems (1972) and From Glasgow to Saturn (1973). They are all to be found in Edwin Morgan: Collected Poems (1990). The poems are read by Edwin Morgan himself and the commentary is by Professor Roderick Watson of the University of Stirling.