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Edwin George Morgan


1920 - 2010

Glasgow's Poet Laureate. Born in the West End of Glasgow, the son of a clerk, Morgan was educated there at the High School and University. As a conscientious objector, he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II. He joined the University of Glasgow as Assistant Lecturer in 1947, rising to Professor of English by 1975 and retiring in 1980.

Morgan was rarely traditional; his poetry is characterised by humour and the unconventional. His first works were The Vision of Cathkin Braes and a translation of Beowulf, published in 1952. His early poems have been described as introspective and sullen, contrasting with his later work, which is inventive and refreshing, but noted for its social observations. A Second Life (1968) reflected this new optimism. From Glasgow to Saturn (1973) was selected as a Poetry Book Society Choice and New Selected Poems was later recommended for the same award. Collected Poems and Crossing the Border, a collection of essays and critical writing, were published in 1990.

Glasgow is at the core of Morgan's work, from the lonely desperation of Glasgow Green to the humour of The Starlings in George Square. In Glasgow Sonnets, he portrays the removal of Victorian slums, to be replaced by new high-rise equivalents.

Morgan also wrote opera libretti and was a capable linguist, translating Lorca, Mayakovsky, Neruda and Racine into Scots. His Glaswegian version of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1992) was highly acclaimed.

Prizes include the Royal Bank of Scotland Book of the Year Award (1983) and the Soros Translation Award (1985). His collection Virtual and Other Realities won the Stakis Prize for the Scottish Writer of the Year (1998).

In 2000, A.D. A Trilogy of Plays on the Life of Jesus, led to controversy with church leaders. The same year Morgan was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and, in 2004, he was named as the first Scot's Makar or National Poet.

He died in a Glasgow Care Home and his funeral was held in Bute Hall within his beloved University of Glasgow, attended by leading figures from literature and politics, with the eulogy given by George Reid (b.1939), former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.


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