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The Great Scottish Poet Has Died

Terribly sad news - Edwin Morgan - Britain's greatest living poet - has died aged 90.  A titan, though modest and infinitely gentle and humourous, his broadly exploratory genius for styles and tones was unique and refreshing in a tradition often emphasising a singularity of voice and a monolothic vision, and clearly paved the way for Muldoon, Herbert, Paterson and others, who developed his sense of play and verve.

Heterogenous in talent, wildly inventive, funny and smart, he was the current genius of the British language, and it is a sad footnote which records that he failed to be awarded a TS Eliot prize while living - though less deserving, younger poets did, for lesser collections.  He was admirable for exploring, however obliquely, his homosexuality - in a culture which does not tend to openly celebrate gay poetry - in short, he was the cross-ocean Ashbery of this clime, and more.

I once wrote him a poem and it was published in Scotland.  He read it, and apparently quite enjoyed it - a true honour for a young poet as I then was.


Anonymous said…
It is not bad enough to lose someone, but when we lose someone special with such a unique talent is a transition of fate, RIP lad.

Robert Anderson, Artist And Poet

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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.