Archive for Edwin Morgan

One Cigarette – Edwin Morgan

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 27, 2020 by telescoper

Today (27th April 2020) is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late great Scottish poet Edwin Morgan so I thought I’d take the opportunity to post one of my favourite poems of his. This is called One Cigarette:

No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker’s tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I’ll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss.

by Edwin Morgan (1920-2010)

One Cigarette

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on January 6, 2012 by telescoper

No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker’s tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I’ll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss.

by Edwin Morgan (1920-2010)

Death and Strawberries

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on August 20, 2010 by telescoper

This week in August 2010 has taken on quite a melancholy mood. Only a few days ago there was the death of physicist Nicola Cabibbo. Yesterday I heard that the great Russian mathematician Vladimir Igorevich Arnold, who did a lot of work of interest to physicists, had also passed away aged 72. And then this morning I was saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, of pneumonia, at the age of 90.

It’s always sad when someone who has contributed so much to their field – whether it’s artistic or scientific – passes away, but the consolation is that each of them in their own way has left a wonderful legacy that remains to be treasured and will also inspire future generations.

Anyway, I thought I’d mark the passing of Edwin Morgan with my favourite poem of his, called Strawberries.

There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air

in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

It may surprise you to learn that this poem is not written by a man to a woman, but from one man to another. A similar reaction is sometimes provoked by certain of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. It came as a shock to quite a few people when it was finally revealed, in fact, because Edwin Morgan kept to himself for a very long time who this was written about. Actually, it wasn’t until he was 70 that the poet stepped out of the closet, announced that he was gay, and explained that the poem was written about an experience he shared with another man. He maintained that at least part of the reason for him not being open publically was that he didn’t want to be branded as a “gay” poet, and that his poems were intended to be universal, which (in my view) they are but then that depends on what kind of universe you live in.

Planet Wave

Posted in Jazz, Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 17, 2009 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will know that from time to time I like to post little bits of poetry. The verses are usually related to astronomy (or science generally)  and they’re usually things I come across pretty much by accident when I’m browsing through the books of poetry I occasionally buy. This evening I was leafing through a collection called A Book of Lives, by the popular and highly respected Scottish national poet Edwin Morgan.  In the middle of this set is a long sequence of poems called Planet Wave, each of which is to do with a specific historical episode or important character, such as Copernicus or Darwin. The first poem in the cycle is about the Big Bang so I thought it would be a good choice.

However, regular readers will also know that I like to post bits of jazz on here too – although the blog statistics suggest that these are much less popular than the poetry!  I read in the Book of Lives that the first half the sequence of poems making up Planet Wave was commissioned by the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival and set to music by the excellent Tommy Smith. The poetry and music combination was first performed in Cheltenham Town Hall on 4 April 1997.

Great, I thought. Here’s a chance to combine jazz and poetry (for what would only be the second time on here, the first being this post). Unfortunately, though, I’ve been unable to locate any recording of a performance of this work. I found an interview with Tommy Smith on the net which suggests a recording was made but never released. I’d certainly love to hear it and I hope that there might be a jazz fan out there somewhere who knows what happened to it.

Anyway, in the absence of the music here’s just the first verse of the first poem of the cycle.  As you will see, Morgan’s style is very inventive, often extremely funny, and always extremely Scottish.

In the Beginning
(20 Billion BC)

Don’t ask me and don’t tell me. I was there.
It was a bang and it was big. I don’t know
what went before, I came out with it.
Think about that if you want my credentials.
Think about that, me, it, imagine it
as I recall it now, swinging in my spacetime hammock,
nibbling a moon or two, watching you.
What am I? You don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
I am the witness, I am not in the dock.
I love matter and I love anti-matter.
Listen to me, listen to my patter.

(Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press.)

If you want to read the rest you’ll have to buy the book! And if anyone out there knows what happened to the recording of Planet Wave please let me know. I’d love to hear it!