ÚLTIMA MENSAGEM (LAST MESSAGE) is published by não (edições), a press based in Lisbon. This volume is number 11 of the Traditore Collection, in which translations of poetry and poetic prose are published.
The book was released on February 13 (2020) at Livraria da Travessa in Lisbon, with a presentation by Fernando Pinto do Amaral, a renowned poet and translator, former Commissioner of the National Reading Plan (PNL, Ler +).
Morgan’s work and this edition have aroused great curiosity with the national press and also with a wide audience.
Text by João Concha and Ricardo Marques
Edwin Morgan (1920-2010) has never been, as far as we known, in Portugal. In fact, his contact with Portuguese-speaking cultures may have been limited to exchanges and collaborations with the Brazilian concrete poets, whose artistic production he became instantly interested with, as we can read in his own visual poems, his collages and his translations. But Portugal is undoubtedly in the poetry of Edwin Morgan, and this presence is also a gateway to his own poetry: ‘Fado’ is the title of a poem that could also be the lyrics to a fado, Fernão de Magalhães (‘Magellan’) is naturally one of the characters of the ‘Planet Wave’ sequence – as well as the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 – and in a well-known poem, hypothetical strangers are ‘floating off to Timor’.
Morgan’s devotion to the history of the world and to the human being of the future, evident in innovative poems, with his lexical balance between colloquial and posh, his mastery of form (from the most traditional sonnet to a creative subversion and invention of new ways to express himself) make this Scottish and European poet a poet of world status, or, perhaps more true to his particular nature, a truly intergalactic artist curious about everything ‘between Glasgow and Saturn’.
Bearing in mind the uniqueness of Morgan’s poetic work and the lack of translations of his books in our country, it was necessary to divulge this author among us, promoting a cultural exchange between Portugal and Scotland. Thus, and in order to celebrate the centenary of Edwin Morgan, the anthology ÚLTIMA MENSAGEM (LAST MESSAGE) presents one hundred poems selected from the books he published (1952-2010), showing a diverse and multifaceted path. The selection of the poems is by João Concha (publisher) and Ricardo Marques (translator), also seeking to cover links to specific aspects of Portuguese culture. Morgan started publishing relatively late and his work blossomed in the midst of an experimental revolution, so the selection and establishment of a corpus was a particularly arduous task, especially if we take into account the number of pamphlets and brochures in which he collaborated and the respective dating.
The most difficult part of translating Edwin Morgan was the visual poems. Needless to say, they offer a very specific challenge, based on the weight of the graphic layout, that, almost like a calligrame, mean as much as the text itself. Another challenge was the language itself. Morgan is an author clearly looking into the future, but with an impressive command of Scots and English, and he was keen in updating terms that are not used anymore, or are very specific in a given context.