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This article is taken from PN Review 242, Volume 44 Number 6, July - August 2018.

Translator’s Notebook (ed. James McGonigal)
Re-translating Concrete Poetry
A Translator's Notebook (8)
edited by James McGonigal
Edwin Morgan
EDWIN MORGAN’s 1960s experiments in concrete poetry were accompanied by serious work of advocacy for an international movement that was generally disparaged in Scotland and the UK. His engagement was personal as well as academic. In an earlier article in PN Review 214 (November–December 2013), I used his letters to avant-garde poets to convey something of his experience of that dare-devil decade – ‘like being shot from a gun’, as he later remarked. In his life and in society at large he felt carried aloft on a trajectory of liberation. He had fallen in love in a reciprocal and long-lasting relationship with John Scott, a warehouseman from industrial Lanarkshire. This was life-changing, certainly, but in music and fashion too, in politics, space exploration and sexual attitudes there suddenly appeared to be new forces at play. And since this was happening across Europe and America, Morgan could think even more positively about his connections with international experimental poetry, and his engagement with younger Scottish writers and artists who were also responding to a changing world.

He celebrates this amazing alteration from his darker 1950s in ‘The Second Life’ (composed May 1963), the title poem of his first collection. Turning forty, he discovers that his Glasgow is ‘an aspiring place’, where both its urban landscape and his own life are being reshaped in a spirit of rebirth in which all things seem possible – and are!

Can it be like this, and is this what it means
in Glasgow now, writing as the aircraft ...

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