Edwin (George) Morgan Dick Davis - Essay

Dick Davis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Edwin Morgan's Poems of Thirty Years is a curate's egg of a book. Large stretches of it are only intermittently comprehensible (e.g. 'The New Divan'), it contains a great deal of versified sci-fi which can be of interest only to aficionados of that genre, and a lot of the earlier verse verges on the worst kind of 1940s apocalyptic twaddle (it was I think a mistake to include the hitherto unpublished 'Dies Irae' of 1952). On the other hand, many of the poems display passion, wit and a desperately inventive verve which is very persuasive; Morgan is at his most impressive in parody and invective, as in the early 'Vision of Cathkin Braes' or the later 'Five Poems on Film Directors', and despite the omnivorous range of subjects he treats, this rather suggests a talent in search of a theme.

The last poem, 'Cinquevalli', is about a juggler, a man of 'balance, of strength, of delights and marvels', and there is more than a hint that this is how Morgan sees the poet. His book has its share of delights and marvels, and, like Cinquevalli, Morgan takes immense risks that dazzle when they come off; but even if he intends the air of circus tawdriness that clings to much of his verse, it is an air that can seem smothering if breathed for too long. (p. 23)

Dick Davis, "Private Poems," in The Listener, Vol. 108, No. 2791, December 16, 1982, pp. 23-4.∗