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This article is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

Translator’s Notebook : 2 (ed. James McGonigal) Edwin Morgan
This piece continues a series started in PNR 233 that draws on Edwin Morgan’s mainly unpublished writings on translation. Preserved in the Edwin Morgan Papers at the Special Collections in the University of Glasgow Library (UGL), these writings help to reconstitute Morgan’s creative thinking in relation to the poetry of other cultures. McGonigal’s editing is signalled in the text.


MONTALE WAS AT the forefront of Edwin Morgan’s mind in 1956, as a translator and also as a young poet in search of an authentic voice of his own. He would use Montale as an exemplar of his own practice, where he would sometimes encounter in the process of insightful translation a sort of Ur-poem which both the translator and the original poet seemed to share. Such ‘co-ownership’ was doubtless comforting at a time when his own poetry was proceeding slowly, and when journal editors often retained his translations for publication but returned his original poems with regrets. A full statement of this sense of poetic partnership was given on the weekend of 23–26 March 1956, when Morgan chaired a symposium on ‘Translation’, introducing the session with a detailed paper at the Sixth Annual Conference of Non-professorial University Teachers in the University College of North Staffordshire, Keele (see ‘Translator’s Notebook’ part 1, PNR 233).

A glance at the list of holograph poems that he preserved in his Papers for that year (available at www.goo.gl/jouerc) reveals that after the conference he worked on translations of Montale to the exclusion of almost all original work. This ...


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