Edwin Morgan Archive

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Edwin Morgan opens archive on 89th birthday
BRIAN DONNELLY • April 28 2009

The Herald

More than six decades of publishing history was unveiled yesterday as Scotland's first National Poet Edwin Morgan revealed more could yet come.

The poet was celebrating his 89th birthday at the launch of an exhibition and archive.

Although in a wheelchair, Morgan looked well and relaxed among friends such as Liz Lochhead, the Glasgow Poet Laureate, and Hamish Whyte, at the official opening of the Edwin Morgan Archive at the National Poetry Library in Edinburgh.

On his health, Morgan, who is battling cancer following a stroke last year, said: "I'm not too bad. I'm getting regular injections so it is keeping it at bay."

He said he has difficulty writing but was pleased to have been asked for a series of works from Tommy Smith, one of Scotland's leading jazz musicians. The saxophonist's work includes a recording called Evolution comprised of a series of compositions inspired by the poet. Together with new musical scores and verse, it is hoped it will make up a work called Planet Waves.

Morgan said of the archive and exhibition: "It is very good to be here in a sense, in that usually you are dead when you have that (a public archive). It is very well done. There is a great variety of stuff there."

The acquisition and development of the archive was made possible by a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and support from The Binks Trust, The National Fund for Acquisitions and The Friends of the National Libraries. It represents the most significant and accessible gathering of Morgan's work in print and media, and pays homage to a remarkably broad and vivid career.

Many items are annotated by Morgan, providing an illuminating insight into the mind of the poet.

His desk, chair, Adler Blue Bird typewriter and a rogue bottle of absinthe from his fabled absinthe evenings are just some of the treasures on display.

Mr Whyte admitted it was like "cutting the umbilical chord" to pass over the items, but he said it was better they should be on public view.

He added: "It took me over 30 years to collect the stuff, with Eddie's help of course.

"We are hoping to add to it by bringing out a small collection of new poems. There are about half a dozen poems from about a year-and-a-half ago that could be included."

Julie Johnstone, curator of the archive, said: "The insight into publishing over the last six decades is extensive, and we are constantly coming across delightful surprises."


Poem of the week

Published Date: 25 April 2009
The Release
by Edwin Morgan

The Scotsman
This poem by Scotland's National Poet takes us directly into that experience of clarity that comes when scaffolding is taken down, a feeling city dwellers will identify with. The Edwin Morgan Archive at the Scottish Poetry Library formally opens on 27 April, Morgan's birthday. It contains over 2,500 items, including A Book of Lives (Carcanet, £9.95) from which this poem is taken.

The scaffolding has gone. The sky is there!

hard cold high clear and blue.

Clanking poles and thudding planks were the music

of a strip-down that let light through

At last, hammered the cage door off its hinges,

banged its goodbye to the bantering dusty

brickie crew,

Left us this rosy cliff-face telling the tentative

sun it is almost as good as new.

So now that we are so scoured and open and clean,

what shall we do?

There is so much to say

And who can delay

When some are lost and some are seen, our dearest

heads, and to those and to these we must still

answer and be true.

September-November 2002

You can borrow items by Edwin Morgan from the Scottish Poetry Library, and view the Archive – it also lends by post. Tel: 0131-557 2876, e-mail reception@spl.org.uk or visit www.spl.org.uk.


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