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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

TAKING AND GRAFTING Edwin Morgan, Grafts/Takes (Mariscat Press) £3.00 pb.

Edwin Morgan is a brilliantly inventive poet, and his brilliance is most clearly demonstrated by the variety of formal procedures he is capable of adopting. This book (printed in 'Z' format) allows us to see two versions of that commitment to innovation side-by-side. Formal techniques often estrange the reader, but Morgan has the additional good sense and humanity to humour us. Indeed the link between the two sequences of poems lies precisely in their humour: the finding of new configurations of meaning within the found material, or within the actions and utterances of others.

Takes is similar to Morgan's well-known Instamatic Poems, in that they both use photographs and/or news reports as source material, the choice of which shows Morgan's taste for the exotic (modern cannibalism) and for the bizarre (a bird being fitted with an acrylic bill at a dental hospital). Like the video artist in one of the poems, Morgan 'fingerwags reality'. The removal of the eroded statue from the dome of St Paul's becomes 'the Easter Island/monolith apostle . . .' with 'a toy man on his back.' (Martians take note!) These poems abound with many such examples of deliberate creative misreading. In the least effective poems the literalness of the style (often present-tense reportage) and the foregrounding of the source material ('In this sharp close-up . . .' etc.) weakens the estrangement. But the best are profoundly illuminating, as in his account of the mythical Walt Disney World, a place where only people ...


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