Although we can’t open the doors as planned on our exhibition The Concrete World of Edwin Morgan, we are continuing our collaboration with the Edwin Morgan Trust to ensure that one of the UK’s most inventive poets of the 20th century is given the attention he deserves in his centenary year.
Morgan came out when he was 70 and his poems have been an influence on subsequent generations of LGBT+ poets. To celebrate this, we have commissioned four contemporary poets to respond to Morgan’s concrete poetry and his work and life. These new commissions will be available on the Edwin Morgan Trust in June to mark Pride Month.
Edwin Morgan was an incredibly prolific poet, which meant that there were many possibilities for what our exhibition on his work might look like. A focus on sci-fi? His scrapbooks? Translation? After much thinking, we decided to focus on Morgan’s concrete poetry and his contribution to the international concrete poetry movement, which took place between the 1950s and 1970s. This decision was aided by the extensive collection of concrete poetry we have at the National Poetry Library, as well as support from the Scottish Poetry Library in offering loans of other items, including Morgan’s own typewriter.
Morgan would go on to further extend these international links, writing concrete poetry in Hungarian and having his work published by the Swiss-Bolivian ‘father’ of concrete, Eugen Gomringer. Morgan connected Glasgow, Scotland and the wider UK with the international movement.
Morgan had a real interest in the first developments of computer-generated poetry which led to him writing ‘Computer’s First Christmas Card’ in 1965. This was typical of his concrete poetry which often explores the repercussion of programming errors on a poem’s form. We are really excited to have commissioned artist, composer and producer Nick Murray to create new digital animations of Morgan’s computer poems, giving them a new life in the age of the internet, apps and social media. The Edwin Morgan Trust will be sharing Nick’s new work with you on Wednesday 27 May.
When the library reopens, The Concrete World of Edwin Morgan will celebrate Morgan as a connector of concrete poets, a communicator of concrete poetry and a questioner of what the genre was doing (and could do). If this sounds like he was something of a statesman for the genre, his own creative work shows a very different picture: here is a poet easily able to lose himself in the joy of creation, delighting in wordplay, invention and imagination. One of his most popular poems, ‘The Loch Ness Monster’s Song’ can be seen to have his inventiveness as a concrete poet at its heart, through stripping language back to phonemes, exploring broken communication and moving – just as the movement did itself – into sound.