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Edwin George Morgan OBE (born April 27, 1920) is a Scottish poet and translator who is associated with the Scottish Renaissance. He is widely recognised as one of the foremost Scottish poets of the 20th century. In 1999, Morgan was made the first Glasgow Poet Laureate. In 2004, he was named as the first Scottish national poet: The Scots Makar.
Morgan was born in Glasgow and grew up in Rutherglen. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1937 and, after interrupting his studies to serve in World War II with the Royal Army Medical Corps, graduated in 1947 and became a lecturer at the University. He worked there until his retirement in 1980.
He came out as a gay man in Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on his Work and Life (edited by Hamish Whyte), Polygon, 1990. He had written many famous love poems, among them "Strawberries" and "The Unspoken", in which the love object was not gendered; this was partly because of legal problems at the time but also out of a desire to universalise them, as he made clear in an interview with Marshall Walker on the Carcanet web site (http://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/scribe?showdoc=15;doctype=interview/).
At the opening of the Glasgow LGBT Centre in 1995, he read a poem he had written for the occasion, and presented it to the Centre as a gift.
In 2002 he became the patron of Our Story Scotland.
In recent years, Morgan has reached a new audience after collaborating with the Scottish band Idlewild on their album The Remote Part. In the closing moments of the album's final track "In Remote Part/ Scottish Fiction", he recites a poem, "Scottish Fiction", written specifically for the song. In 2007, Morgan contributed two poems to the compilation Ballads of the Book for which a range of Scottish writers created poems to be made into songs by Scottish musicians. Morgan's songs "The Good Years" and "The Weight of Years" were performed by Karine Polwart and Idlewild respectively.
He is the last survivor of the canonical 'Big Seven' (the others being Hugh MacDiarmid, Robert Garioch, Norman MacCaig, Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, and Sorley MacLean).
At the Opening of the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh on the 9th October 2004, he read a poem written especially for the occasion, titled "The Poem for the Opening of the Scottish Parliament".
Morgan has worked in a wide range of forms and styles, from the sonnet to concrete poetry. His Collected Poems appeared in 1990. He has also translated from a wide range of languages, including Russian, Hungarian, French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Old English (Beowulf). Many of these are collected in Rites of Passage. Selected Translations (1976).
Morgan is also known to be influenced by the American beat poets, with their simple, accessible ideas and language being prominent features in his work.
In 1968 Morgan wrote a poem entitled 'Starlings In George Square'. This poem could be read as a comment on society's reluctance to accept the integration of different races. Other people have also considered it to be about the Russian Revolution in which "Starling" could be a reference to "Stalin".
Other notable poems include:
- The Death of Marilyn Monroe (1962) - an outpour of emotion because of the loss of one of the world's most talented women.
- The Billy Boys (1968) - flashback of the gang warfare in Glasgow led by Billy Fullerton in the Thirties.
- Glasgow 5 March 1971 - robbery by two youths by pushing an unsuspecting couple through a shop window on Sauchiehall Street
- In the Snackbar - a concise description of an encounter with a disabled OAP in a Glasgow restaurant.
- A Good Year for Death (26th Sept. 1977) - a description of five famous people from the world of popular culture who died in 1977
- The poem for the opening of the Scottish Parliament - which he had to let someone else read at the opening ceremony because he was too ill. (9th October 2004)
- 1972 PEN Memorial Medal (Hungary)
- 1982 OBE
- 1983 Royal Bank of Scotland Book of the Year Award
- 1985 Soros Translation Award (New York)
- 1998 Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year for Virtual and Other Realities
- 2000 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
- 2001 Weidenfeld Translation Prize for Jean Racine: Phaedra
- 2003 Jackie Forster Memorial Award for Culture