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This article is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.

Stephen Raw: Lettering Artist Edwin Morgan

My own connection with Stephen Raw is when he is wearing his other hat, as a designer of book-covers for Carcanet Press, which has published many of my books of poetry. One of these book-covers contained nothing but lettering, so I was not entirely surprised when Stephen told me about this exhibition.

The subject of language and memory is a very interesting one, with all sorts of ramifications. In a sense language is itself an act of remembering. We write things down in language because we want to remember them. The very earliest inscriptions, in the ancient Sumerian language of what is today Iraq, were lists of goods involved in the trade and commerce of the region. And at all periods to the present time, much of the graffiti which are scrawled on walls is simply people's names: they are not likely to be remembered any other way, so here they are, here they were, they did exist. (In my local bus shelter recently there appeared a graffito saying BOB WILSON IS GAY. Later, someone added, in a different hand, ISH - quite sophisticated.) Obviously this takes on a new dimension when famous persons are concerned, and monuments or sculptures or portraits are created to make sure they are not forgotten. Of course nothing is certain in this life, and monuments can be defaced or destroyed. Where there's an icon, there's also an iconoclast, including time itself. Shelley's poem `Ozymandias' makes a nice ironic comment on this ...


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