Thursday, 26 August 2010

Edwin Morgan - Colossus of Scotish Poetry has left the building ( 27/4/1920- 17/8/2010).

Edwin Morgan who died last week was the national poet of Sotland, a masterful writer with a vast palatte to draw on, he was both poet and scholar. He was a true innovator and experimenter influenced by numerous forms such as the Black Mountain poets, the Beats ( he was a friend and champion of Alexander Trocchi) Russian modernism, and the Portugese concrete poets. Born in Glasgow in 1920 to presbertarian parents he had a strong sense of fun, mischevious but gentle. His love poems very tender, although gay he never actually came out until ageds 70, so until then the love objects in his love poems were not gendered. He was loved nevertheless by his people, along with Sorley MacClean and Alisdair Gray he opened my eyes to Scottish culture, and its details .He was a true individual who saw himself as a republican Scottish nationalist and was of deep and passionate feeling. Outspoken but gentle. Surrealistic laughter, never guess what's round the corner. Tender, passionate.
He served with the RAMC as a conscientious objector during the second World War in the Middle East. He became a lecturer in English at the University of Glasgow until his retirement in 1980.
He caught in full sight his lyric epiphanies, in the focus and refocus of sequences, the wily reification of words in concrete poems, and the wierd rhythyms of sound poems. His transforming imagination was democratic, generous and inclusive. Ian Crichton Smith wrote that Morgan's poetry ' welcomes the twentieth century, with its gadgets, its paradoxes, graffiti, new languages, torn advertisements, uncoscious jokes, voyages...' His words were always an adventure and were like looking at a stained glass of paradise. A magpies eye for detail , in tune with modern pop culture not afraid at speaking out, mocking,anger, rage but then capable of huge reliefs of quick fire humour.
I heard him last on an album by the Scottish band Idlewild in which he recited a poem , "Scottish Fiction " . In later years he lived in a care home as his health got worse but he never stopped writing.
Yesterday as I wrote these words on a computer I was using in the local library suddenly all the computers crashed and their was a sudden emptiness that I can't explain, I do know I believe in the power of poetry and yet another leaf had fallen. May he be at peace. A writer of many many wonderful books check them out.

The Change

For all its banks bursting with bullion,
the land of injustice will not prosper.

The skyscrapers shine as if they could never
smell black smoke or shake to thunder.

Tanks, whips, dogs, laws - the panopoly
cracks steadily, being built over a fault.

Of course there are battleships, communications,
planes; but the sophisticated do not have it.

The spirit has it, the spirit of the people has it
townships, shantytowns, jails, funerals

have it. It is no use digging in,
rulers, unless you dig a pit to be

tipped into. Ruling has gone on too long,
will not be saved by armbands or the laager.

The unjust know this very well.
They lay ears to the ground, hear hooves.

Beasts, one time; an express, one time;
men, one time; history, one time.

Straighten up and pat your holsters.
Self-righteousness and a ramrod back

will not help. The sun goes down with you,
other fruits ripen for other lips.


A Good Year for Death

Where is Callas la Divina
with her black velvet and her white passion?
Where are the women and women and women
she threw into life for an hour from her throat
to float and fight? She cannot hear
the last bravo.
Death has danced her tune away.

Where is Nabokov with his butterfly-net,
his galoshes, his mushrooms, his index-cards?
He has gone in a whiff of bilberries and blinis,
his fire has paled, his puns have flunked.
Shades crowd the lakeside hydrangeas and sallows
skim quick and low.
Death has danced his tune away.

Where is Bolan, the elfin, now?
Who has taken his spangles and songs,
bongos and gongs, and his white swan?
Who has pied-piper'd the pied piper
ino that childless, teenless wood?
The metal shadow,
Death, has danced his tune away.

Where is Presley all in silver,
with his sideburns and his quiver
of simple rock, and what is that army
he's uniformed for, in a white sheet,
will theslowstep motorcade battalion
never let him go?
Death has danced his tune away.

And where is Lowell that sweet mad poet
with his rumpled suit and uranium finger?
A giant forsythia covers the Pentagon
with better than gold, but the magnolias
wax the Potomacwhite with grief-
in words at least. Be true, be brief:
we lack his fellow.
Death has danced his tune away.

(26/9/77) - a description of 5 famous people from the world of popular culture who died in 1977.


I scratch a gap in the curtains:
the darkest mornings of the year
goes grey slowly, chains of orange street-lights
lose out east in Glasgo's haze. The smell
of cigarette smoke fills the bedroom. I drown
in it, I gulp you through my lungs again
and hardly find whatcan be breathed.
Are you destroying me? Or is it a comedy?
To get together naked in bed, was that all?
To say you had done it? And that we did nothing
was what you had done. Iago and Cassio
had a better night. It must be a laugh
to see us both washed out with lying there.
It doesn't feel like laughing, though,
it feels like gasping, shrieking, tearing, all in silence
as I leave your long curved back
and go through to the kettle and the eggs.

Opening the Cage
14 variations on 14 words

I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.
John Cage

I have to say poetry and is that nothing and am I saying it
I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it
I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it
I that am saying poetry have nothing and it is I and to say
And I say that I am to have poetry and saying it is nothing
I am poetry and nothing and saying it is to say that I have
To have nothing is poetry and I am saying that and I say it
Poetry is saying I have nothing and I am to say that and it
Saying nothing I am poetry and I have to say that and it is
It is and I am and I have poetry saying say that to nothing
It is saying poetry to nothing and I say I have and am that
Poetry is saying I have it and I am nothing and to say that
And that nothing is poetry I am saying and I have to say it
Saying poetry is nothing and to that I say I am and have it

The Loch Ness Monster's Song

Hnwhuffl ffnnwfl hnl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl -
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gn.
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl-
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,

At the Television Set

Take care if you kiss me,
you know it doesn't die.
The lamplight reaches out, draws it
blandly- all of it- inyo fixity,
troops of blue shadows like the soundless gunfight,
yellow shadows like your cheek by the lamp
where you lie watching, half watching
between the yellow and the blue.
I half see you, half know you.
Take care if you turn now to face me.
Foe even in this room we are moving out through stars
and forms that never let us back, your hand
lying lighyly on my thigh and my hand on your shoulder
are transfixed only there, not here.

What can you bear that would last
like a rock through cancer and white hair?

Yet it is not easy
to take stock of miseries
when the soft light flickers
along our aems in the stillness
where decisions are made.
You have to look art me,
and then it's time that falls
talking slowly to sleep.

As I have said Edwin Morgan bought out a vast quantity of work
nevertheless I would strongly recommend his collected poems on Carcanet. Think it was reprinted in late 1990s.

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