Edwin (George) Morgan Julian Symons - Essay

Julian Symons

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Second Life] contains straightforward verse and (printed on differently-coloured paper) concrete poems. [Morgan] is certainly the wittiest and least pretentious practitioner of con-crete poetry, in which his range extends from the charming piece that plays variations on the word 'pomander' to social comments like Starryveldt, in which this word changes gradually to Sharpeville and shriekvolley, then to smashverwoerd and spadevow, sunvast, survive and SO:VAEVICTIS. I still feel that this sort of trickiness is not the right form in which to comment on the South African situation, but Mr Morgan goes a long way to justifying concrete poetry as something more than a joke, although he has some good jokes too like French Persian Cats Having a Ball.

The poems that lack the support of typographical devices sometimes tend, like those of E. E. Cummings, to drop into sentimentality. The best of them are those in which fantasy has a fairly free rein, like one that begins 'The white rhinoceros was eating phosphorus!' and a poem about a Canadian timber-wolf hunted through Hertfordshire by planes and helicopters, which is finally shot and bludgeoned to death. There are good poems about the deaths of Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe, and throughout the book Mr Morgan shows a dash and romantic bravura that are welcome elements in our present thoroughly mud-coloured poetic scene. (p. 179)

Julian Symons, "Versions," in The New Statesman & Nation, Vol. 75, No. 1926, February 9, 1968, pp. 178-79.∗