Aye Write 2015: The Midnight Letterbox: Selected Correspondence of Edwin Morgan review by Maggie Graham
John Coyle & James McGonigal: The Midnight Letterbox: Selected Correspondence of Edwin Morgan.
Chaired by Jim Carruth.
As the editors of Edwin Morgan’s correspondence, John Coyle and James McGonigal could have made this event a dry academic treatise, but it was much more. McGonigal who studied with Morgan at Glasgow University, is his biographer and literary executor and John Coyle, is a senior lecturer in English at Glasgow. Their fondness for the poet as a man and admiration of his work was the evident throughout, even though, it seems their task was a huge one. The correspondence that was eventually published is, we were told, around a third of one tenth of that available to them.
Between readings from the book, they spoke of Morgan’s work and life. So we learnt that Edwin Morgan’s mother had worked as a typewriter, the word typist not yet being in use, and how it was she who taught him to type. They also spoke about the struggles Morgan had to have his more Avant-garde poetry accepted by the establishment, including his friend Hugh MacDiarmid It was meeting and corresponding with poets Gail Turnbull and Ian Hamilton Findlay who wrote concrete poetry amongst other forms, that gave Morgan the creative cohorts and acceptance he had craved.
Readings ranged from a hilarious account of MacDairmid’s birthday party, to kindly generous replies to students and school children and tender love notes, written at a time when his homosexuality had to be kept secret. One of the most interesting, to me, was Morgan’s account of watching the moon landings on TV on 21st July 1969, which just happened to be the date of my sixteenth birthday. The sixties fascinated and energised Morgan. He referred to them as “an unforgettable gauge on the landscape” of the times.
This event gave the audience a real sense of Morgan as man, poet, friend, lover and teacher. This “one man Google” as John Coyle called him. It was entertaining and informative. A great start on day one of the festival.
Aye Write 2015-04-20 Maggie Graham
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