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This review is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

NINETEEN KINDS OF MORGAN Edwin Morgan, Themes on a Variation, Carcanet, £6.95

A substantial collection of Edwin Morgan's poems - Poems of Thirty Years - was published by Carcanet in 1982. Themes on a Variation gathers together most of Morgan's work of the past six years, together with Newspoems, a series of fifty pieces devised between 1965 and 1971 and, like much of the other material in this volume, available until now only in a small press limited edition.

This new collection will consolidate Morgan's place in contemporary poetry as the most approachable of writers, and one with an inexhaustible zest for Protean changes of form and style. His drive to communicate has the same character as Byron's, an energetic and ceaseless heroic chatter. Indeed, it is not surprising that Byron emerges as probably the most important of the British poets in Morgan's cosmopolitan canon of those writers for whom he feels most professional respect and personal devotion. 'Byron at Sixty-Five' pays homage to Morgan's hero imagined as having survived until 1853, outliving Wordsworth and (still fond of nights with his 'dear contessa' and 'a spot of grog') meditating on Melville, Marx, the revolutions of 1848, and the benefits of modern science. It is a remarkable poem because, besides capturing Byron's style accurately, it makes us appreciate (probably quite unintentionally on Morgan's part) how very like Byron he has become. Both poets share a tolerant humanity, with affection for human beings in all their variousness - indeed, delight in all the variousness of this world - together with mistrust ...


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