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More Laurels for Morgan

28/06/2008

Somehow, I had missed until the middle of this week the news that Edwin Morgan has won this year’s Sundial Scottish Arts Council book of the year award for A Book of Lives. Shame on me!

Not having read the collection–or any of the other finalists, for that matter–I can’t comment on its merits, but there’s no doubt that Morgan is and always has been a remarkable writer. He’s perhaps the most widely known of that significant seam of writers who have demonstrated how possible it is to combine experimental and mainstream poetics in one career, even in one poem. Above all, his work–serious, subtle and craftful as it is–teams with imagination, verve and wit. He is a poet for the variousness of today. Incidentally, he’s the first poet I ever saw read live and probably the first living poet I read extensively off my own bat, unprompted by any course syllabus.

It’s always encouraging to see poetry winning when it goes head to head with other genres in awards like this one. The poetry shortlist was strong; Carcanet dominated with three titles, while Cape and Edinburgh’s Luath had one apiece. But Morgan wasn’t the only poet among the finalists: the winner of the first book category was fellow Linlithgow resident Jane McKie, whose first collection, Morocco Rococo, is published by Wales’s Cinnamon Press. She was up against a Cape chicklit title and a non-fiction book from Scotland’s Sandstone Press so, all in all, it was a good showing for small presses too.

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