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Edwin Morgan

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Claire O'Gallagher Claire O'Gallagher | 08:00 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Like many people, I first encountered Edwin Morgan at school. I was lucky enough to meet the great man for the first time when I was in Primary 6, and he was presenting the prizes at a local poetry competition - in the face of a bit of controversy over the subject matter over some of his own work, the 'Stobhill' sequence in particular. He told me I had a wonderful imagination - little did I know at the time what a compliment that was - and I felt like I was floating on air. After that, all I wanted to do was write like Edwin Morgan. (And, of course, we all sought out 'Stobhill' at the library, thinking it was going to be some kind of salacious, saucy piece of writing - the negative press only fuelling our need to read it. It should go without saying that it isn't 'juicy' at all, but it is a fabulous poem. Search it out.)

On Bill Boyd's blog, his post on 'Eddie' and the subsequent comments tell a similar story to mine, of Morgan taking a real interest in young people and their writing. The young people return the compliment, by taking his work to their hearts in schools all over the country every year. Poems such as 'In The Snack-Bar' and 'Strawberries'are often the first Morgan works that students encounter at school, but they're only the beginning of a journey that can take readers from Glasgow to Saturn - via Loch Ness, Mercury, and a computer that writes Christmas cards.

My own fascination with Morgan only grew as I grew. I wrote my Advanced Higher English Specialist Study on his 'Glasgow' poetry, a devoted fan even then. He came and read to my year group when I was in first year at Glasgow University - with such zest and zing that you would have been forgiven for thinking you hadn't heard poetry read aloud before. One of my favourites, which he read that day, is 'The Apple's Song':

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For my money, he is the best poet Scotland has produced since Burns. The first to be given the title of Glasgow's Poet Laureate and latterly, Scots Makar. He has translated work from countless languages, has stretched his genius from descriptive poems such as 'Glasgow Green' and 'King Billy' about his native city, to wonderful sound and typographical experiments such as 'Canedolia' and 'Message Clear'. (My husband to this day swears that 'Message Clear' is in the shape of a bottle, but when he asked Eddie if it was intentional, he was told categorically that it wasn't.)

If you haven't already introduced your students to this wonderful poet, I urge you to take the opportunity to pass on the gift of his poetry. As he is laid to rest today, there will be many tributes paid to the great man and his legacy. A teacher himself for many years, I'm sure Morgan would delight in the idea of his work continuing to inspire new generations of students. There would be no greater tribute.

More tributes to Edwin Morgan:
Pauline McLean's Arts blog
BBC News
The Herald
The Guardian
University of Glasgow

WN Herbert in the Scotsman

Edwin Morgan interviewed by Liz Lochhead


  • Comment number 1.

    Edwin Morgan was my first living poet - I realised this when I was in one of his classes at Glasgow University. I've just returned home from his funeral celebration - for that's what it was - in the Bute Hall. It was great to see so many people recognising a poet with such enthusiasm and affection!


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