from Glasgow Sonnets. Edwin Morgan


A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.
Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses
puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses
of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.
Four storeys have no windows left to smash,
but the fifth a chipped sill buttresses
mother and daughter the last mistresses
of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.
Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl.
The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob.
Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall.
The man lies late since he has lost his job,
smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall
thinly into an air too poor to rob.


5 thoughts on “from Glasgow Sonnets. Edwin Morgan

  1. Edwin George Morgan was born 27 April 1920 in Glasgow’s West End. He has always been interested in many different areas, some of which include languages, technology, art, and film; he began to travel widely in the 1950s. He translated poetry from the Russian, Hungarian, French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and other languages. In the early 1960s he began to experiment with Concrete Poetry. Both, readers and critics have always been struck by the great variety in style, form and subject Edwin Morgan’s work provides: From sonnet to concrete poem, from opera libretto to performance with jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith, his work is as wide-ranging as you could wish for, its striking inventiveness being just one of its special qualities. He wrote poems on film and theatre, Science Fiction poetry, Sonnets from Scotland, Glasgow Sonnets, Instamatic Poems, and Newspoems, to name but a few. He published numerous volumes of poetry, as well as collections of essays, most of which are available at Carcanet Press Ltd., Manchester and Mariscat Press, Glasgow. His volume of Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1990) is the largest, a very wide ranging collection.

    Glasgow Sonnet No° 1 was quoted from:
    Collected Poems, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1990, p. 289.
    The poem is part of Glasgow Sonnets, a sequence of 10 sonnets, numbered i to x, which was originally published in 1972 by Castlelaw Press, West Linton.

  2. Talking about the Real…just an improptu suggestion at this late hour: tomorrow there will be a march against the extension work for the US base in Vicenza – and tonight the news were all about fear of the ‘black blocs’. Sometimes words can open a universe of resonances…xs

  3. I am glad to find a post of Morgan’s poetry!
    This piece portrays the roughness and desolation of Glasgow’s harshest peripheries. Not infrequently dilapidated buildings, once superbe examples of Victorian architecture, parade before my eyes if I venture beyond the outskirts of the city centre. Those who inhabit such places are often ghostly figures, carrying around their bodies like empty frames.

  4. I knew you would appreciate it Mariangela… here is another one:


    What is a demon? Study my life.
    What is a mountain? Set out now.
    What is fire? It is for ever.
    What is my life? A fall, a call.
    What is the deep? Set out now.
    What is thunder? Your power dry.
    What is the film? It rolls, it tells.
    What is the film? Under the Falls.
    Where is the theatre? Under the hill.
    Where is the demon? Walking the hills.
    Where is the victory? On the high tops.
    Where is the fire? Far in the deep.
    Where is the deep? Study the demon.
    Where is the mountain? Set out now.
    Study my life and set out now.

    Demon, Glasgow: Mariscat Press, 1999, p. 28

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