Skip to main content

Scottish Genius

The Guardian has an interview, today, with the 88-year-old poetic genius, Edwin Morgan, Scotland's greatest living poet, who should have won the TS Eliot Prize for this year. His loss will, in time, be seen as both emblematic of the current climate in certain British poetry circles, and quite sad - but also deeply silly. Not only was he clearly the deserving winner, anyone with class would have decided it was a just and fitting bit of icing to a great cake of a career. Sadly, lesser minds, and more importantly, spirits, are currently bossing things about - without an ounce of Morgan's wit, open-minded playfulness, or international curiosity. In listing his influences, Sarah Crown the interviewer, notes that some names are less popular now - and then mentions Hart Crane. Only in the UK, where many in the new gang of poetry top dogs thinks anything even slightly modern, rhetorical, or American, is rubbish, would Hart Crane be so thought of - elsewhere, Crane is still beloved as one of the finest, and most thrilling, of 20th century poets.

What has happened, basically, is that Morgan (an engaging gay man with a great mind) represents the cosmopolitan wing of the British poetry world - a wing that has otherwise been mainly shut down by the so-called current mainstreamers - people who edit for Picador and Cape, say. The international poetry that gets in, almost under darkness, to Britain, gets in with the help of Salt, Bloodaxe, Carcanet, and a few other smaller presses. Even then, there is sometimes an overly sombre take on things - something Morgan, like Ashbery, in some ways a very similar figure for American writing (but far more influential over there) - avoids.

Basically, Morgan is open to the full play of poetry, word, and world - he has not morally, or aesthetically, edited his poetry before the ink flows, and he has no portentous, ego-driven agenda. Sadly, the force of Heaney's shadow has called forth a great many neo-emulators in Britain, men and women without Heaney's ability, or, for that matter, striking source material - therefore the countless dreary translations of classical poems of the last few years coming from London. This small group of influential neo-classical poets is trying to fight for the great seriousness of Poetry, but in the process, have managed to drive the life out of it. They've forgotten what Morgan always knew - a glad heart, and a big one - has more wax on which to burn a wick. Most poets in the UK are afraid to openly question this neo-classical crew, though some, deep down, feel alienated by its gruff, male, dour tone.

It's time to recall that, before poetry societies, and poetry prizes, there was poetry, full stop. Too much careerism means there are few fearless, clear, and direct poetry reviewers operating over here. Crown was right to feature Morgan now - it sends a good signal.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:

HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!