Not so much thoughts, perhaps, as a sort of memory. Edwin Morgan came to read for Blue Room, the poetry society John Wilkinson, Charlie Bulbeck and I ran in Cambridge in the early 1970s. Assiduous readers of this blog will already know that one of my duties, apart from booking rooms and making coffee, was to – how can I put this delicately? – meet the erotic needs of some of the visiting poets. (You can find more about this extra-curricular activity in the Cambridge Literary Review and Jacket.) I remember the general feeling that Morgan might be the third element in my literary-cum-sexual hat-trick, so it was odd to read in the recent obituaries (this one by Ben Myers) that he didn’t come out until much later. I was already a fan of his work, which struck me as both witty and wise, and my copy of From Glasgow to Saturn, with its glossy canary yellow cover, was one of my favourite collections throughout my student years and beyond. Among other things, he was the only concrete poet who seemed to me to make a case for concrete poetry deserving a a wider readership than one restricted to a group of practising adepts. I don’t remember meeting him before the reading, which was both polished and intimate, but I do remember our holding a sort of post-reading party in my room, and Morgan sitting in the single armchair the room provided, rather shy and benign, and no more interested in having sex with me than I was with him. I continued to read him, with pleasure, and was sorry to see he’d died, but this post was actually triggered by a review in the Guardian a few weeks ago now of a final collection, entitled Dreams and other Nightmares, published by Mariscat Press (and currently unavailable from Amazon). The title of this post is Morgan’s wonderful gloss on a tear, quoted in the review. It’s a fine perceptive piece, but what stopped me in my reading was a small section from a poem called “Skins”.
The bodies we don’t know
don’t know each other or themselves.
We introduce the stranger to the stranger.
Reading this, I had the oddest sense of loss, and envy, as though one of those strangers should have been me.
How interesting you have this memory of the ‘shy and benign’ man, and felt such a sense of loss on reading those lines. I think, up here, we all had a sense of loss when he died – we are introduced to Edwin Morgan early on, he is firmly on the syllabus in Scottish schools (or at least he was in the seventies/eighties). You may like to know that Glasgow University’s free online literary magazine is named From Glasgow To Saturn (and I will actually have some flash fiction in January’s edition!).
Also, a great interview with Edwin from ten years ago on their site.
Look forward to reading your piece, and watching the interview. Thanks for letting me know about them. I don’t remember doing any modern poetry at all at school – Thomas Hardy was as close as we got to it; which is what made Morgan and others – too many to mention here – such a revelation to me when I discovered them.
Yes, come visit!
I certainly will!