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This review is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.

CHANGE RULES Edwin Morgan, Poems of Thirty Years (Carcanet) £14.95

This large collection - 442 pages - contains nearly all the poetry of Edwin Morgan originally published between 1952 and 1982. It includes Dies Irae - a dozen or so poems and translations which were first scheduled for publication in 1951 but which failed to appear then. All Morgan's 'experimental' poems are reprinted, except for those which need colour in their presentation.

One needs to be wary about using the label 'experimental' about Morgan's poetry. This volume shows that a restless and patient inventiveness, a sort of dogged playfulness about his exploration of language and form, has always been present. His achievement has been to develop a natural gift for parody into an unusually flexible and humane poetic voice.

In Morgan's poetry of the 1950s (The Vision of Cathkin Braes, Dies Irae, The Cape of Good Hope, and The Whittrick) there is a good ear for literary imitation in both style and form. The poem 'Dies Irae', for instance, was composed at a time when the New Apocalypse group of poets had all but faded from the centre of the British literary scene, but the poem shows the influence of that group as well as Anglo-Saxon models: 'The boomerang drum-roll doubling and redoubling a hundredfold,/The blistering fulgor fire-runnelling the livid vault,/ The thunder and the blaze of heaven I bore.' Sometimes the parody is conscious and quite amusing. The Vision of Cathkin Braes (1952) contains a charade-poem ('Ingram Lake or, Five Acts on the House') ...


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