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This article is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

Translator’s Notebook (1) (edited by James McGonigal) Edwin Morgan
THROUGH CONSTANT EARLY WORK of translation from a dozen languages, Edwin Morgan explored and re-defined what his own poetry might become. He also clarified what translation itself ought to be. Sometimes he would use this experience in lectures, articles or reviews, and he carefully preserved those among his hundreds of files donated to Special Collections in the University of Glasgow Library.1 The Edwin Morgan Papers also contain unpublished translations in typescript or holograph versions. Although he had no single notebook of translations, preferring to move quickly from pencil drafts to typewritten sheets, his mainly unpublished papers on translation help us reconstitute his creative thinking in relation to the poetry of other cultures. For Morgan, the 1950s now appear as a crucial decade in which the expanding linguistic range of his translations opens a door into the more adventurous and life-affirming poetry he would write in the 1960s.

Over the weekend of 23–26 March 1956, Morgan chaired a symposium on ‘Translation’, introducing the session with a detailed paper. This was at the Sixth Annual Conference of Non-professorial University Teachers, in the University College of North Staffordshire, Keele. The conference title and venue signal a more hierarchical age, and perhaps prepare us for entry into a seemingly exclusively male world of translators and lecturers, with an occasional ‘colonial’ reference that would now be differently handled. More interesting, and still quite radical, is Morgan’s subject matter, particularly as he strives to balance the claims of poetry and translation in the teaching of literature, and as he shares insights into ...


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