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This review is taken from PN Review 76, Volume 17 Number 2, November - December 1990.

WHO IS EDWIN MORGAN ? About Edwin Morgan, edited by Robert Crawford and Hamish Whyte (Edinburgh University Press) £19.50
Nothing Not Giving Messages, edited by Hamish Whyte (Polygon) £14.95

In Geoffrey Summerfield's anthology Worlds, which will have been for many readers their introduction to Edwin Morgan's work, most of the poets are photographed in the centre of their local habitations; Morgan, by contrast, is seen disappearing up a staircase, retreating to the far corner of a room, leaning away on a balcony as if to escape from the camera. The images are apt: few poets are harder to pin down. Mention Morgan's name to casual readers, and some will think of science fiction, some of urban Glasgow, some of translations into Scots, others - most others - of the concrete poems. Who exactly is Edwin Morgan?

These two handsome books, published in honour of his seventieth birthday, attempt to provide the answers and, rather satisfyingly, don't really succeed. About Edwin Morgan is a collection of essays ranging from the bland (an impeccably polite piece by Iain Chrichton Smith on 'The Public and Private Morgan' tells us little about either) to the sharply perceptive. Douglas Dunn, on 'Morgan's Sonnets', has both informative detail and sparky generalization: 'Some passages of "Glasgow Sonnets" feel like revolutionary speeches delivered on the premises of a hostile institution.' Kevin McCarra's 'Edwin Morgan: Lives and Work' is an admirably crisp introduction which shows how, by the mid-sixties, 'Ordinary life had become worthy of wonder'. Best of all is Robyn Marsack's 'Edwin Morgan and Contemporary Poetry', a luminous spider's web of an essay which connects Morgan's work outwards in various unexpected directions. Breaking through ...

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