Monday 5 September 2011

Edwin Morgan: Selected Poems

(Actually the book is the New Selected Poems, but as the book is now over 10 years old, that New can be a little confusing!)

Edwin Morgan was Scotland's greatest poet, who died last year at the age of 90. He was an incredibly versatile poet and could move with great ease between sonnets and experimental form and subjects varying from tender love poems to science fiction, poems about the history of Scotland and a poem in the voice of the Loch Ness Monster.

New Selected Poems showcases the whole range of his talents. I love the surrealism of many of his poems, as in From the Video Box: 25 - an imagining of the televising of the world jigsaw finals:

.............But what I liked best
was the last shot of the completed sea
filling the screen; then the saw lines disappeared,
till almost imperceptibly the surface moved

Although he didn't write often about nature, Morgan did have a fine sense of the natural world, as shown in An Abandoned Culvert:

The daffodils sang shrill within the culvert.
Their almost acid notes amazed the darkness

and he could write a good campaigning environmental poem too as in The White Rhinoceros
which proves that poetry doesn't need to rant to make a campaigning point:

and the safety catches started to click in the thickets
for more. Run holy hide - take up your armour-
Run - white horn, tin clown, crown of rain woods

Morgan is best known perhaps for both his science fiction poetry and his love poetry. His science fiction poetry is very clever and often highly entertaining such as The First Men on Mercury, in which the voices of the earthlings and the Mercurians move closer and closer together, until they can barely be distinguished and eventually change still further so that the Mercurians are speaking English and the earthlings are speaking gibberish.

Morgan's love poetry is tender and often melancholy. Morgan came out as gay on his 70th birthday, you can read more about his sexuality and his love poetry in this excellent article on Aethelred the Unread, where you can also find Morgan's well known love poem Strawberries.

Edwin Morgan: New Selected Poems published by Carcanet

As ever. coloured text contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Cross-posted to Over Forty Shades


Pomona said...

I am not familiar with his work - I shall have to seek him out. It is always good to be introduced to something new, because I do have a tendency to tread the same old paths out of habit.

Pomona x

Kay Cooke said...

I can only echo the above comment. I have heard of Edwin Morgan but never read much of what he's written. I love the pieces you have chosen to highlight. Beautiful poetry, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to get that - thanks for the review.

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Juliet,

Beautiful poetry from Edwin Morgan and will have to check out more of his work.
Also loved the colour of the Autumn leaf in the previous post.
Interesting how we are coming into opposite seasons.

Happy week

RG said...

Ditto the others! Thanks for the review.

Gillena Cox said...

an introduction for me i'll google to read more of his work

much love...

Dave King said...

An excellent review. I was considering buying the "new" book, but you have settled the point. Buy it I shall.