Edwin (George) Morgan Alasdair D.F. Macrae - Essay

Alasdair D.F. Macrae

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The thirty years in the title of [Poems of Thirty Years] run from 1952 to 1982 and over this period Edwin Morgan has been remarkably productive…. Abroad he is perhaps best known for his concrete poems, poems such as 'The Computer's First Christmas Card' and 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song' where he plays with permutations of sounds, words and shapes on the page. Play, improvisation, surprise discoveries are central to his idea of poetry. Although he often writes in conventional metres, he obviously believes that many poems present themselves to the vigilant observer; thus, his Instamatic Poems (1972) catch the poetic moments as they are offered. The dangers in this notion of the found poem are that what is striking to one observer may not be so interesting to other readers, and that the immediately striking often seems, in retrospect, flashy or narrowly topical. Some of Morgan's poems are decidedly slight and inconsequential.

This collection includes a group of previously unpublished early poems and some uncollected later poems but the strongest section of his work probably remains The Second Life (1968). Throughout this large retrospective volume there are excellent poems in different modes and Edwin Morgan's example constitutes, in its constant experimenting and willingness to take risks, a challenge to younger poets. Unlike so many poets, he glories in technical advances and tries to write a poetry appropriate to space travel, the sensationalist tactics of the media, and the discrepancies between the glamour of Hollywood publicity and the abject misery of ordinary life for many. Morgan demands to be read by anyone interested in contemporary poetry. (pp. 51-2)

Alasdair D.F. Macrae, in a review of "Poems of Thirty Years," in British Book News, January, 1983, pp. 51-2.