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Edwin Morgan is 90

05/05/2010

Last week, Scotland’s official makar and most inventive living poet Edwin Morgan reached the grand age of 90 and published a new book Dreams and Other Nightmares: New and Uncollected Poems 1954-2009. Simply amazing still to be publishing at that age and to have uncollected poems worth collecting from that stretch of time. But then, Eddie Morgan has always been remarkable and, as the video interview here illustrates, he is unlikely to give up on being remarkable any time soon, despite his advancing age and failing health.

The first poetry event I ever went to was Eddie Morgan reading in my freshers week, back in 1994. Unlike a good number of my peers, I hadn’t read him for Higher English (we did MacCaig) and so I knew neither his work nor his reputation. I still remember the reading, if not the precise set list, which is blurred by several years and readings since then. I’m sure he read, among others “The Apple’s Song”, “One Cigarette” and “The Loch Ness Monster’s Song”, possibly “The Mummy”. It was something of a revelation.

Morgan is one of those rare poets who simultaneously sets the cat — well, a whole gang of them, really — among the pigeon holes and maintains huge popular appeal, at least in Scotland. It’s unthinkable that anyone with such a history of experimentation could become the UK poet laureate, but equally unthinkable that anyone aside from him could have been given the position of makar. And that despite his eloquent nationalism*. Long may he remain an amazement to the rest of us!

*The appointment was made under the previous Lib Dem-Labour — i.e., unionist — coalition**.

**Yes, coalition. No, the country hasn’t collapsed.

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