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PART OF THE Edwin Morgan ISSUE

‘Love rules. Love laughs. Love marches. Love is the wolf that guards the gate.’

One of the key projects of the Edwin Morgan Centenary Celebrations is the publication of the Edwin Morgan Twenties, published by Polygon, each taking on a major theme of Edwin Morgan’s work and introduced by literary luminaries Jackie Kay, Liz Lochhead, Michael Rosen, Ken MacLeod and Ali Smith. We are delighted to offer a taster of each Twenty, and they are also available altogether in a gorgeous box set.

 

The Edwin Morgan Twenties Box Set (Love, Menagerie, Take Heart, Scotland, Space and Spaces)
By Edwin Morgan
Published by Polygon

 

Love
Introduced by Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay writes: ‘Morgan’s love poems give you a real sense of this shy, passionate, interesting and interested man, a man who is in awe of the elements and of the natural world, as well as the cultural one, a man who appreciates the intensities of absences, and who knows what a power they have on the imagination.’

 

Love

Love rules. Love laughs. Love marches. Love is the wolf
that guards the gate.
Love is the food of music, art, poetry. It fills us and fuels us
and fires us to create.
Love is terror. Love is sweat. Love is bashed pillow,
crumpled sheet, unenviable fate.
Love is the honour that kills and saves and nothing will ever
let that high ambiguity abate.
Love is the crushed ice that tingles and shivers and clinks
fidgin-fain for the sugar-drenched absinth to fall on it
and alter its state.
With love you send a probe
So far from the globe
No one can name the shoals the voids the belts the zones
the drags the flares it signals all to leave all and to
navigate.

Love and a Life
(Mariscat Press, 2003)

 

Strawberries

There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you
let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills
let the storm wash the plates

The Second Life
(Edinburgh University Press, 1968)

 

Menagerie
Introduced by Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen writes: ‘When we came across Edwin’s poems we knew we had found something that was just right for the job. We performed them to each other, savouring the words, the subtle changes in rhythm and mood.’

 

A Defence

I am told I should not love him, the magpie,
that he’s a bully, but then I watch them bouncing
along the grass, chattering, black and white and
he and she, twigs in beak, the tree-top swaying
with half a nest in a hail-shower, the magpies
seeing off crows and gulls – a feint of mobbing
but who knows – eyeing a lost swan waddling
down the pavement, off course from Bingham’s waters,
the smart bright bold bad pairing caring magpies
whose nest was blown down last December, back now
to build again, to breed again, to bring us
a batch of tumbling clockwork liquorice allsorts,
spruce, spliced, diced, learning to prance and hurtle
through evening and morning sycamores with what must be
something like happiness, the magpies, cocky,
hungry, handsome, an eye-catching flash for that
black and white collie to bark at, and the black and
white cat lurking under the car-bonnet
to lash a bushy tail at, and this page, seeing
these things, first white, now white and black, to pay its
tribute to, and lay out, thus, its pleasure.

Hold Hands among the Atoms
(Mariscat Press, 1991)

 

The Loch Ness Monster’s Song

Sssnnnwhuffffll?
Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl –
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok-doplodovok-plovodokot-doplodokosh?
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl –
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,
blp.

Twelve Songs
(The Castlelaw Press, 1970)

 

Take Heart
Introduced by Ali Smith

Ali Smith writes: ‘Perseverance, ‘that one persisting patience of the undefeated’, as Morgan puts it, unites us, and even if the odds are as ridiculous, as flagrantly hilarious as, say, the task the jigsaw-maker faces in ‘From the Video Box 25’, the payoff is the kick of real/miraculous transformation that comes with concentrated creativity.’

Oban Girl

A girl in a window eating a melon
eating a melon and painting a picture
painting a picture and humming Hey Jude
humming Hey Jude as the light was fading

In the autumn she’ll be married

Twelve Songs
(The Castlelaw Press, 1970)

 

Pilate at Fortingall

A Latin harsh with Aramaicisms
poured from his lips incessantly; it made
no sense, for surely he was mad. The glade
of birches shamed his rags, in paroxysms
he stumbled, toga’d, furred, blear, brittle, grey.
They told us he sat here beneath the yew
even in downpours; ate dog-scraps. Crows flew
from prehistoric stone to stone all day.
‘See him now.’ He crawled to the cattle-trough
at dusk, jumbled the water till it sloshed
and spilled into the hoof-mush in blue strands,
slapped with useless despair each sodden cuff,
and washed his hands, and watched his hands, and washed
his hands, and watched his hands, and washed his hands.

Sonnets from Scotland
(Mariscat Press, 1984)

 

Scotland
Introduced by Liz Lochhead

Liz Lochhead writes: ‘Edwin Morgan was indeed Glasgow’s own. He doesn’t belong to Glasgow though, but to all of Scotland in all times, to Europe, to the whole world, to poetry itself and, above all, to the transcendent, transforming power of imagination.’

Canedolia
an off-concrete Scotch fantasia

oa! hoy! awe! ba! mey!

who saw?
rhu saw rum. garve saw smoo. nigg saw tain. lairg saw lagg.
rig saw eigg. largs saw haggs. tongue saw luss. mull saw
yell. stoer saw strone. drem saw muck. gask saw noss. unst
saw cults. echt saw banff. weem saw wick. trool saw twatt.

how far?
from largo to lunga from joppa to skibo from ratho to
shona from ulva to minto from tinto to tolsta from soutra
to marsco from braco to barra from alva to stobo from
fogo to fada from gigha to gogo from kelso to stroma from
hirta to spango.

what is it like there?
och, it’s freuchie, it’s faifley, it’s wamphray, it’s frandy, it’s
sliddery.

what do you do?
we foindle and fungle, we bonkle and meigle and
maxpoffle. we scotstarvit, armit, wormit, and even
whifflet. we play at crossstobs, leuchars, gorbals, and
finfan. we scavaig, and there’s aye a bit of tilquhilly. if it’s
wet, treshnish and mishnish.

what is the best of the country?
blinkbonny! airgold! thundergay!

and the worst?
scrishven, shiskine, scrabster, and snizort.

listen! what’s that?
catacol and wauchope, never heed them.

tell us about last night
well, we had a wee ferintosh and we lay on the quiraing. it
was pure strontian!

but who was there?
petermoidart and craigenkenneth and cambusputtock and
ecclemuchty and corriehulish and balladolly and
altnacanny and clauchanvrechan and stronachlochan and
auchenlachar and tighnacrankie and tilliebruaich and
killieharra

and invervannach and achnatudlem and machrishellach
and inchtamurchan and auchterfechan and kinlochculter
and ardnawhallie and invershuggle.

and what was the toast?
schiehallion! schiehallion! schiehallion!

The Second Life
(Edinburgh University Press, 1968)

 

Glasgow Sonnet v

‘Let them eat cake’ made no bones about it.
But we say let them eat the hope deferred
and that will sicken them. We have preferred
silent slipways to the riveters’ wit.
And don’t deny it – that’s the ugly bit.
Ministers’ tears might well have launched a herd
of bucking tankers if they’d been transferred
from Whitehall to the Clyde. And smiles don’t fit
either. ‘There’ll be no bevvying’ said Reid
at the work-in. But all the dignity you muster
can only give you back a mouth to feed
and rent to pay if what you lose in bluster
is no more than win patience with ‘I need’
while distant blackboards use you as their duster.

Glasgow Sonnets
(The Castlelaw Press, 1972)

 

Space and Spaces
Introduced by Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod writes: ‘Poetry was respectable. Science fiction was not. Encountering them in one place was a shock: of recognition, of delight, of vindication. ‘Archives’ and ‘The Computer’s First Christmas Card’ hinted at a science-fictional sensibility.

A Home in Space

Laid-back in orbit, they found their minds.
They found their minds were very clean and clear.
Clear crystals in swarms outside were their fireflies and larks.
Larks they were in lift-off, swallows in soaring.
Soaring metal is flight and nest together.
Together they must hatch.
Hatches let the welders out.
Out went the whitesuit riggers with frames as light as air.
Air was millions under lock and key.
Key-ins had computers wild on Saturday nights.
Nights, days, months, years they lived in space.
Space shone black in their eyes.
Eyes, hands, food-tubes, screens, lenses, keys were one.
One night – or day – or month – or year – they all –
all gathered at the panel and agreed –
agreed to cut communication with –
with the earth base – and it must be said they were –
were cool and clear as they dismantled the station and –
and gave their capsule such power that –
that they launched themselves outwards –
outwards in an impeccable trajectory, that band –
that band of tranquil defiers, not to plant any –
any home with roots but to keep a –
a voyaging generation voyaging, and as far –
as far as there would ever be a home in space –
space that needs time and time that needs life.

Star Gate: Science Fiction Poems
(Third Eye Centre, 1979)

 

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 Second Life
(Edinburgh University Press, 1968)

 

The Edwin Morgan Twenties Box Set is published by Polygon, priced £20.00. Each individual volume is also available, priced £5.00.

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