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Edwin Morgan (poet)
Occupation Poet, Lecturer (Retired)
Official website

Edwin George Morgan OBE (born 27 April 1920) is a Scottish poet and translator who is associated with the Scottish Renaissance. He is widely recognised as one of the foremost Scottish poets of the 20th century. In 1999, Morgan was made the first Glasgow Poet Laureate. In 2004, he was named as the first Scottish national poet: The Scots Makar.



Morgan was born in Glasgow and grew up in Rutherglen. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1937 and, after interrupting his studies to serve in World War II as a non-combatant conscientious objector with the Royal Army Medical Corps, graduated in 1947 and became a lecturer at the University. He worked there until his retirement in 1980.

He came out as gay in Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on his Work and Life , but explored his sexuality in many previous works.[1] He had written many famous love poems, among them "Strawberries" and "The Unspoken", in which the love object was not gendered; this was partly because of legal problems at the time but also out of a desire to universalise them, as he made clear in an interview with Marshall Walker available from Carcanet Press.

At the opening of the Glasgow LGBT Centre in 1995, he read a poem he had written for the occasion, and presented it to the Centre as a gift.

In 2002 he became the patron of Our Story Scotland. At the Opening of the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh on 9 October 2004, Liz Lochhead read a poem written especially for the occasion by Morgan, titled Poem for the Opening of the Scottish Parliament.

In recent years, Morgan has reached a new audience after collaborating with the Scottish band Idlewild on their album The Remote Part. In the closing moments of the album's final track "In Remote Part/ Scottish Fiction", he recites a poem, "Scottish Fiction", written specifically for the song. In 2007, Morgan contributed two poems to the compilation Ballads of the Book for which a range of Scottish writers created poems to be made into songs by Scottish musicians. Morgan's songs "The Good Years" and "The Weight of Years" were performed by Karine Polwart and Idlewild respectively.

He is the last survivor of the canonical 'Big Seven' (the others being Hugh MacDiarmid, Robert Garioch, Norman MacCaig, Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, and Sorley MacLean).

Works and Publications

  • Beowulf: A Verse Translation into Modern English Hand and Flower Press, 1952
  • The Vision of Cathkin Braes and Other Poems William MacLellan, 1952
  • The Cape of Good Hope (limited edition) Pound Press, 1955
  • Poems from Eugenio Montale (translator) School of Art, University of Reading, 1959
  • Sovpoems: Brecht, Neruda, Pasternak, Tsvetayeva, Mayakovsky, Martynov, Yevtushenko (translator) Migrant Press, 1961
  • Collins Albatross Book of Longer Poems (editor) Collins, 1963
  • Starryveldt Eugen Gomringer Press, 1965
  • Emergent Poems Hansjörg Mayer, 1967
  • Gnomes Akros publications, 1968
  • The Second Life Edinburgh University Press, 1968
  • Selected Poems of Sándor Weöres and Selected Poems of Ferenc Juhász (translator and introduction for Sándor Weöres) Penguin, 1970
  • The Horseman's Word: Concrete Poems Akros, 1970
  • Twelve Songs Castlelaw Press, 1970
  • Glasgow Sonnets Castlelaw Press, 1972
  • Instamatic Poems Ian McKelvie, 1972
  • Wi the haill voice: 25 poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky (translator and glossary) Carcanet, 1972
  • From Glasgow to Saturn Carcanet, 1973
  • Nuspeak8: Being a Visual Poem by Edwin Morgan Scottish Arts Council, 1973
  • The Whittrick: a Poem in Eight Dialogues Akros, 1973
  • Essays Carcanet, 1974
  • Fifty Renascence Love-Poems (translator) Whiteknights Press, 1975
  • Rites of Passage (translator) Carcanet Press, 1976
  • Edwin Morgan: an interview by Marshall Walker Akros, 1977
  • The New Divan Carcanet Press, 1977
  • Selected poems by August Graf von Platen-Hallermünde (translator) Castlelaw Press, 1978
  • Star Gate: Science Fiction Poems Third Eye Centre, 1979
  • Scottish Satirical Verse (compiler) Carcanet, 1980
  • Grendel Mariscat, 1982
  • Poems of Thirty Years Carcanet Press, 1982
  • The Apple-Tree (modern version of a medieval Dutch play) Third Eye Centre, 1982
  • Grafts Mariscat, 1983
  • Sonnets from Scotland Mariscat, 1984
  • Selected Poems Carcanet Press, 1985
  • From the Video Box Mariscat, 1986
  • Newspoems Wacy, 1987
  • Tales from Limerick Zoo (illustrated by David Neilson) Mariscat, 1988
  • Themes on a Variation Carcanet Press, 1988
  • Collected Poems (republished 1996 with index) Carcanet Press, 1990
  • Crossing the Border: Essays on Scottish Literature Carcanet Press, 1990
  • Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on his Work and Life (edited by Hamish Whyte) Polygon, 1990
  • Hold Hands Among the Atoms: 70 Poems Mariscat, 1991
  • Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac: A New Verse Translation (translator) Carcanet Press, 1992
  • Fragments by József Attila (translator) Morning Star Publications, 1992
  • MacCaig, Morgan, Lochhead: Three Scottish Poets (edited and introduced by Roderick Watson) Canongate, 1992
  • Cecilia Vicuña:PALABRARmas/WURDWAPPINschaw Morning Star Publications, 1994
  • Sweeping Out the Dark Carcanet Press, 1994
  • Long Poems - But How Long? (W. D. Thomas Memorial Lecture) University of Wales, Swansea, 1995
  • Collected Translations Carcanet Press, 1996
  • St. Columba: The Maker on High (translator) Mariscat, 1997
  • Virtual and Other Realities Carcanet Press, 1997
  • Chistopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus (a new version) Canongate, 1999
  • Demon Mariscat, 1999
  • A.D.: A Trilogy of Plays on the Life of Jesus Carcanet, 2000
  • Jean Racine: Phaedra (translation of Phèdre) Carcanet Press, 2000
  • New Selected Poems Carcanet Press, 2000
  • Attila József: Sixty Poems (translator) Mariscat, 2001
  • Cathures Carcanet Press, 2002
  • Love and a Life: 50 Poems by Edwin Morgan Mariscat, 2003
  • The Battle of Bannockburn (translator) SPL in association with Akros and Mariscat, 2004
  • Tales from Baron Munchausen Mariscat, 2005
  • The Play of Gilgamesh Carcanet Press, 2005
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking at Rillie Enitharmon, 2006
  • A Book of Lives Carcanet Press, 2007


Morgan has worked in a wide range of forms and styles, from the sonnet to concrete poetry. His Collected Poems appeared in 1990. He has also translated from a wide range of languages, including Russian, Hungarian, French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Old English (Beowulf). Many of these are collected in Rites of Passage. Selected Translations (1976).[2].

Morgan is also known to be influenced by the American beat poets, with their simple, accessible ideas and language being prominent features in his work.

In 1968 Morgan wrote a poem entitled Starlings In George Square. This poem could be read as a comment on society's reluctance to accept the integration of different races. Other people have also considered it to be about the Russian Revolution in which "Starling" could be a reference to "Stalin".

Other notable poems include:

  • The Death of Marilyn Monroe (1962) - an outpouring of emotion after the loss of one of the world's most talented women.
  • The Billy Boys (1968) - flashback of the gang warfare in Glasgow led by Billy Fullerton in the Thirties.
  • Glasgow 5 March 1971 - robbery by two youths by pushing an unsuspecting couple through a shop window on Sauchiehall Street
  • In the Snackbar - concise description of an encounter with a disabled pensioner in a Glasgow restaurant.
  • A Good Year for Death (26 September 1977) - a description of five famous people from the world of popular culture who died in 1977
  • Poem for the Opening of the Scottish Parliament - which was read by Liz Lochhead at the opening ceremony because he was too ill. (9 October 2004)


Awards listed on the British Council Contemporary Writers website [3].


  1. ^ McGonigal, James (2006), "Gay Writing in Scotland: An Interview with Edwin Morgan", in McGonigal, James; Stirling, Kirsten, Ethically Speaking: Voice and Values in Modern Scottish Writing, Rodopi, p. 139–56, ISBN 9042020849  
  2. ^ Carcanet Press - Edwin Morgan
  3. ^ British Council contemporary writers

External links

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