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This article is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

Translator’s Notebook (ed. James McGonigal)
Concrete Poetry Again
Edwin Morgan

A Translator’s Notebook (9)

IN DECEMBER 1964, shortly after his review of recent concrete poetry for The Times Literary Supplement of September 1964 (see ‘A Translator’s Notebook 8’, PN Review 242), Edwin Morgan wrote a talk on the same topic for the BBC Third Programme. It would be produced by the poet George MacBeth and broadcast in June of the following year. The typescript in L/5 Box 2 of the Edwin Morgan Papers in Glasgow University Library is headed by a BBC disclaimer: ‘NOT CHECKED IN TALKS DEPARTMENT WITH “AS BROADCAST” SCRIPT’. And indeed the number of additional ideas and comments scribbled in its margins, mostly from Morgan but a couple from MacBeth, makes this draft even more interesting. I have included these as endnotes tagged to the original sentence, together with several editorial clarifications. Some of Morgan’s glosses must relate to later presentations or seminars he gave on concrete poetry, extending the content of this talk, now illustrated by slides of the texts. We might say that the blend of literary and cultural criticism revealed here was itself a kind of ‘translation’, a rendering into the academic context of the time of avant-garde ideas that were too easily dismissible there. So this draft of a broadcast became part of the translator’s notebook, to be revisited and extended during the years that followed. Material from these later talks is included here.

The idea of a vanguard in literature has never had much acceptance in this country, though it’s a commonplace on ...

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