Born in 1920 in Glasgow, Edwin Morgan died in August 2010 in his home city of Glasgow.
In this interview, filmed a few years before his death, he explains how being an only child helped to cultivate his vivid imagination. We also hear that, like many young people, he did not always have a clear career path in mind. A young Edwin considered going to art school and undertaking an apprenticeship at Templeton Carpet Factory at Glasgow Green before finally studying English at Glasgow University.
His academic career was interrupted by the Second World War; as a pacifist, Edwin signed up for the medical corps in order to contribute to the war effort while staying as true as possible to his beliefs. On graduating, he turned down a scholarship at Oxford to take up a post in the English Department of Glasgow University.
The writing process
Edwin talks about using pencils and typewriters to get his thoughts down on paper, and about the importance of reviewing and editing both during and after writing. Unless he has been commissioned to write a specific poem, he tends to write about topics that interest him. His aim is usually to create something that is well made rather than writing primarily with an audience in mind.
This conversation may generate useful discussion from pupils and students about their own approaches to writing. Liz Lochhead goes on to talk about the poem Edwin wrote for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2004, and how many believe that it should have a presence in every school and in every public building.
Fun, imagination and inspiration
Playing with language and using interesting words sparked Edwin's love of poetry, and we hear how his concrete poems may reflect his artistic bent. His writing has changed as he has aged: with age has come experimentation such as looking at different technical aspects of poetry. Despite asserting that the 1960s was his era, Edwin was also involved in fascinating and fun projects since then such as writing poems for the Glasgow Underground and collaboration with jazz musician Tommy Smith.