National Poetry Day 2010: Edwin Morgan and home

Today is the 17th National Poetry Day in the UK, and the theme for 2010 is ‘home’.

For some, home is a birth-place, a birth-right even, or a genealogical map. It might be conceptual or concrete. It might be an identity, realised. For me it is Glasgow.

Glasgow Clydeside by John Lindie

When I think of poetry that reflects ‘home’, I look to the late Edwin Morgan. His poetry is born out of this city. It reflects the city’s pride, its meanness, “a ragged diamond of shattered plate-glass”.

Of Glasgow, he once said:

I was born in Glasgow and have lived most of my life there, and whatever image the city has to the outside world, to me it underlies and pervades my feeling at a deep level of identification and sympathy

i. ( Glasgow Sonnets, 1972) by Edwin Morgan

A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.
Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses
puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses
of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.
Four storeys have no windows left to smash,
but the fifth a chipped sill buttresses
mother and daughter the last mistresses
of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.
Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl.
The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob.
Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall.
The man lies late since he has lost his job,
smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall
thinly into an air too poor to rob.

Then there’s  a wee bit of this: it might not qualify as literature or poetry, and it definitely wasn’t written by Edwin Morgan, but I remember it from my school years, it reminds me of what ‘home’ was then and it makes me smile:

The Jeely Piece Song

1.

I’m a skyscraper wean, I live on the nineteenth flair;
But I’m no’ gaun oot tae play ony mair,
‘Cause since we moved tae Castlemilk, I’m wastin’ away
‘Cause I’m gettin’ wan meal less every day.

(Chorus:)
Oh ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty storey flat,
Seven hundred hungry weans’ll testify, to that.
If it’s butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan,
The odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine tae wan.

6.

We’re wrote away to Oxfam to try an’ get some aid,
An’ a’ the weans in Castlemilk have formed a ‘piece brigade’.
We’re gonnae march to George’s Square demanding civil rights
Like nae mair hooses over piece-flinging height

Where is home?

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One thought on “National Poetry Day 2010: Edwin Morgan and home

  1. Hi Marie
    Was just wandering around Phillip Larkin links when I came upon your blog and started wandering around it. I have now got some new books to look at reading and a new poet to explore. Edwin Morgans “The man lies late since he has lost his job,
    smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall
    thinly into an air too poor to rob.” is just so evocative. I’m going to bookmark your site & will be back to visit. Thanks. (now I’d better get back to work)

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