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A Commentary

by Roderick Watson, with readings by Edwin Morgan – volume 2

Published in: Audio CD.
By: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Glasgow, October 2005.
Price: £9.95
ISBN 978-0-948877-68-1

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This critical commentary on the poetry of the Scottish national poet, or Scots Makar, Edwin Morgan, continues the survey of particular themes and forms that was begun in an earlier compilation produced by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. It looks at such topics as Glasgow (Morgan’s home city), love and family relationships, and larger world issues, as well as considering Morgan’s ability to move from acute observation of reality to a height of imaginative invention that at times reaches the surreal. There are poems about the remembered past and the speculative future, about real people and other kinds of creature, about art and about growing old.

These are the poems of a man who has maintained and extended his range of interests and poetic skills with the advancing years. The commentary reflects this by selecting poems from the collections of his younger maturity, poems which have become particularly associated with Morgan, and from the more recent collections of the 1990s and the first years of the new millennium, poems that astonish with their freshness and vigour of thought and feeling.

Two seminal collections of Morgan’s poetry are This Second Life (1968) and From Glasgow to Saturn (1973). From the former come three poems, ‘Opening the Cage’, ‘Aberdeen Train’ and ‘King Billy’; the latter is represented by the poems, ‘Glasgow Sonnet 1’, ‘Afterwards’, ‘The Milk-cart’, ‘The First Men on Mercury’ and ‘The Apple’s Song’. Morgan’s most important collection of the later 1970s was The New Divan (1977); it is represented here by the poem ‘Planets’.

The masterly sonnet sequence, Sonnets from Scotland (1984), saw Morgan’s attention turning eloquently to the condition of his own country, and ‘Target’ has been chosen to present an apocalyptic picture of a potential future holocaust close to home. By contrast, two poems from From the Video Box (1986) reveal Morgan in humorous surrealist mode playfully imagining new uses of the media. ‘Cinquevalli’ and ‘The Coals’ were uncollected poems from this period until they were brought together in Poems of Thirty Years (1982).

The 1990s and the first four years after 2000 have seen a major flourishing of Morgan’s talent. The years that saw the ending of the Cold War and major changes in the world picture stimulated Morgan’s imagination, as did more personal family matters. ‘An Iraqi Student’, ‘Aunt Myra’ and ‘Fires’ from Hold Hands Among the Atoms (1991) touch on such topics. However, it is the collection, Cathures (2001), that most notably reveals Morgan’s poetic re-energising. Poems written as Glasgow’s Poet Laureate, and treating his native city with a new dynamic, are gathered into what must certainly be regarded as one of Morgan’s best publications. It is represented here by ‘A Gull’, ‘Gasometer’, ‘On the Bus’, ‘Blind’, ‘At Eighty’ and ‘Sunset’, with one of the poems from the ‘Demon’ sequence, ‘The Demon in Argyle Street’, also included.

This CD commentary, therefore, brings together poems from Morgan’s most productive period of his middle years as a poet, as well as a culling of gems from the more recent Indian summer of his work. As before, the readings are by Edwin Morgan himself and the critical commentary is by Professor Roderick Watson of the University of Stirling.


  1. Introduction; ‘Opening the Cage’
  2. ‘Aberdeen Train’
  3. ‘A Gull’
  4. ‘Gasometer’
  5. ‘King Billy’
  6. ‘Glasgow Sonnet’
  7. ‘On the Bus’
  8. ‘Afterwards’
  9. ‘An Iraqi Student’
  10. ‘The Target’
  11. ‘The First Men on Mercury’
  12. ‘The Demon in Argyle Street’
  13. ‘The Apple Song’
  14. ‘Planets’
  15. ‘The Milk Cart’
  16. ‘The Coals’
  17. ‘Aunt Myra’
  18. ‘Fires’
  19. ‘At Eighty’
  20. ‘From the Video Box 7’
  21. ‘From the Video Box 25’
  22. ‘Cinquevalli’
  23. ‘Sunset’


Also available: 17 Poems of Edwin Morgan

17 Poems of Edwin Morgan
Audio CD

Pbk: £9.95


Also available: SCOTNOTES study guide

The Poetry of Edwin Morgan
by James McGonigal

Pbk: £5.95


Last updated 25 July 2013