The third video in our #HoldHandsAmongTheAtoms centenary video series is a collaboration between the National Poetry Library and the Edwin Morgan Trust. Featuring new work from poets Chris Beckett, Caroline Bergvall, Keith Jarrett and Richard Scott, The Concrete World of Edwin Morgan celebrates Edwin Morgan’s role in the concrete poetry movement and the warmth and humour that he brings to his visual work. Coinciding with LGBT Pride month 2020, the commissioned poems also celebrate Edwin Morgan’s sexuality, and explore the new depths of reading that can be reached with this in mind.

From Chris McCabe, National Poetry Library:

“Although we can’t open the doors as planned on our exhibition The Concrete World of Edwin Morgan we are delighted to have commissioned four of the UK’s most exciting poets to respond to Morgan’s life and work. 

Morgan came out when he was 70 and his poems have been an influence on subsequent generations of LGBT+ poets. He was also one of the most significant concrete poets of the 20th Century and it is these two areas of his life and work that are the focus for these new commissions.

We are sure Morgan would have been delighted with these poetic responses: Chris Beckett reimagines Morgan’s famous strawberries as mangoes and takes Morgan for a walk amongst lions. Keith Jarrett’s ‘Now That We Are Out’ explores the shift in gay life from the time that Morgan wrote his poems, many of which were written between the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, and the current gay scene. ‘The knot of silence / loosens its tense thread’, Jarrett writes, ‘our love unmasks’. Richard Scott’s has written a powerful and radical ‘redux’ of Morgan’s ‘Glasgow Green’, increasing the ‘pure risk’ of Morgan’s work through an exploration of gay desire and space. Caroline Bergvall’s ‘Everything was sand’ finds a compelling hidden poem within the lines of Morgan’s ‘Sonnets from Scotland’ and her animation ‘shine in! shine out!’ shows a clear development of concrete poetry, demonstrating just why her work is celebrated for demonstrating what visual poetry can be in the 21st Century. “

Be sure to also view Edwin Morgan’s Computer – a set of game poems by Nick Murray, which were also commissioned for this exhibition.

The video is embedded below and linked here, with original works from commissioned poets published in full below.

This is the last video edited by artist Aideen Doran for the channel. Aideen has brought Edwin Morgan to life through her incredible ability to tell stories using her talent for imagery and arrangement. We are excited to have Tako Taal working on the next three #HoldHandsAmongtheAtoms videos, which will be released from September – November. Stay tuned!


CAROLINE BERGVALL

Shine in! shine out!

There was a time when everything was sand

1
There is no beginning. We saw Lewis
Diving in the warm seas around Beardsen,
The glaciers melt slowly in the sun.
We found the poet’s skull on the machair.
‘If those stones could speak –’ Do not wish too loud.
The darkness deepens, and the woods are long.
A Latin harsh with Aramaicisms
There is a mirror only we can see.
Names as from outer space, names without roots:
God but le son du cor, Columba sighed
over the cliff-top and into the mist
‘North and then north and north again we sailed, 
Damian, D’amiens, Damiano –
‘Yes, I taught Milton. He was a sharp boy.
‘They say I’m mad, but who would not be mad
James Hutton that true son of fire who said
The sun beat on the Moby-Dick-browed boy.
Twelve thousand drops of laudanum a day
Leith dock’s lashed spars roped the young heart of Tait. 
Earnestly nervous yet forthright, melted
A Slav philosopher in Stronachlachar:
‘There are two rivers: how can a drop go
Why did the poets come to the desert?
– Knock knock – Who’s there? Doctor – Doctor who? No, 
The universe is like a trampoline. 

2
As it was neither night nor noon, we mused 
The isles of Scotland! the isles of Scotland! 
We cannot see it, it keeps changing so.
‘No no it will not do, it will be not be. 
Naw naw, there’s nae big wurds here, there ye go. 
A writer needs nothing but a table.
The Buenos Aires Vase, one mile across,
‘A parrot Edward Lear drew has just died.’ 
Infinitely variable water, 
Rain stockaded Glasgow; we paused, changed gears, 
It was high summer, and the sun was hot.
But was it art? we asked the French, who said
Then they were running with fire in their hair, 
A giant gannet buzzed our glinty probe.
The jungle of Gleneagles was a long
No one was left to hear the long All Clear. 
Flapping, fluttering, like imploding porridge 
We brushed the dirt off, held it to the light. 
Slowly through the Cheviot Hills at dawn 
Lighter and lighter, not eternity, 
– That was the time Scotland began to move. 
Scotland was found on Jupiter. That’s true.
It was so fine we lingered there for hours. 
That must have been a time of happiness. 
The year was ending, and the land lay still. 

Notes:
‘shine in! shine out!’ is a constraints-led visual poem based on Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 Oct 2004. Presented as a gif. 
‘There was a Time when Everything was Sand’ is a constraints-led poem based on Sonnets from Scotland


KEITH JARRETT

Now that we are out…

the you engenders new unambiguousness
                                                              and interlocks fingers in public, visibilizes itself,
albeit with apprehension, which we can ill-afford
                                                            to lock away, with all the unconfirmed bachelors,
at least for now, although the laws may uphold us 
                                                        when our families may still not. The knot of silence
loosens its tense threat, our love unmasks 
                                                               its masculinity, unrings itself from running rings
around explicit desire, 
                                                                                                            untucks its own boundaries.
Although I think of how a simple cigarette
                                                      once held another meaning that had to be recovered 
 from the blown ash in the non-smoker’s tray, 
                                         or how mosquito nets obscured the act, or so you believed,
 until you two were parted. But now we have our pride,
                       what is left to translate, Edwin? After all, we just happen to be men.
 Has our world flattened like the unwashable stain 
                                        on his shirt? Shall we be repurposed like this city’s cottages?
 This stump, our thumbs: 
                                                                                                           are they all that we have left? 

Another view of things…

What I love about music is its scale  
what I hate about muesli is its adherence 
what I love about meaning is its itinerary
what I hate about the printer is its reproduction
what I love about the sky is its aspiration
what I hate about the world is its weight
what I love about saltires is their ire and their salt
what I hate about Kings Cross is its intersections
what I love about chickens is their coronation 
what I hate about morning is repetition
what I love about Veronica is her proliferation 
what I hate about Janus is his duplicity
what I love about the sprite is its effervescence 
what I hate about tower blocks is their eyelid-batting
what I love about nostrils is their déjà vu
what I hate about candour is its putridness
what I love about closets are their ecosystems
what I hate about springs is their optimism
what I love about deviance is its recreation
what I hate about absence is its omnipresence
what I love about discretion is its sensibilities
what I hate about poetry is its abandon
what I love about headlines is their brevities 
what I hate about the universe is its expansiveness
what I love about love is its inheritance

Afterword, London 2020  

Afterwards the sun shone on the twelve ornate birdcages and the engraved tree stump.   

Afterwards the artists fell on lean times / some occupied rectangular rooms inside their rooms / at least one became a viral / sensation.    

Afterwards the daisies sought meaning while my two nephews observed from the window with a telescope. All of this was reported / in grainy images / all of this was archived by the specialists. None of this may be true.   

Afterwards we hoped for more afterwards and afterwards because the present was shadowed and shapeless and the past was a kingdom of reckoning.     

Afterwards my soap-wizened fingers forgot your cigarette and traversed the perimeters of your lips.   

Afterwards you mistook this gesture for silencing.    

(Perhaps this was because, for so long: we spoke of love and avoided its flesh / we removed the hairs from between our teeth and replaced it with song / we wiped down the evidence, wary of the sentences passed down from our own minds / we bundled it into laundry piles, believing it indecorous / we misplaced our duendes and mistranslated our appendages.)   

Afterwards we mourned the dead feathers before us. We, the scavenger birds, we, the butterflies, we, the ladybirds, we, the ducks, the queens. No others were present. No photographs were taken. All of this may be true.   

Afterwards our hearts craned, our lungs became lawless, we implored our forebearers, we foraged our windowsills and at last, having excavated the when and when, I ran alone through an empty car park in this sweltering city, and did not lament the gravel when it entered, and the lido was magnificent, the bare bones of it sucked dry of the peals of children, and the pilgrims atop the hill beckoned me up and up, and in my ascent was the unravelling of cathedrals and skyscrapers and the stone, the glass, the flashing red pimples said behold but there was nothing.      

Notes:
‘Now that we are out’ is a response to ‘Power of Things Not Declared’ interviews, and extracts from ‘Pieces of Me’ in Edwin Morgan: Inventions of Modernity.
‘Another View of Things’ is after ‘A View of Things’, in The Second Life 
‘Afterword, London 2020’ is after ‘Afterwards’, in Selected Poems


RICHARD SCOTT

Glasgow Green Redux
                   After Edwin Morgan
                   All the love poems which I have published are gay. 
                                                                                                              Edwin Morgan
I

a wink within the black – 
who is that – green 
shadows – a wink then 
a whistle boiling over – a 
whispering inside the 
grass – who is that – 
and are cut-outs against the 
gloaming and cigarette-
glows – a man alive 
and out way too late muttering 
to himself – not one of the 
meth-men but skinny 
slides into them and is 
gone and is into the 
laurel and who never really was 
himself anyway – who 
feels the lack of a shadow 
on this night – which is 
green and golden and is not 
delicate – we are on 
Flesher’s Haugh and I 
am with you Edwin – you 
cannot be a bystander 
in this poem – o longing
longing we go into 
the swampish sedge 
 

II
 
go sedge 
go bul  rush 
go marr            am 
go cat   s         tail
go tim              o          thy 
go foxt             ail 
go sweet v e  r   n    a     l 
go lym e 
go erect            um 
go bur  ree                   d
go air   g          r           ass 
go sweet          f  l   a   g 
go black                      g          r           ass
go bulb            o          u          s 
go cos  g          rove
go tong     u     e 
go arth             ur 
go ca    la         mus
go scutch grass  


III
 
a little neon leaks onto desire lines 
in this slick scutch – each 
footstep to darker green a rune 
spelling man – o vegetable 
language of hunter and sub – the 
game of making back alleys 
and clubs in the scrub – and it’s your game 
Edwin of complicating language 
to hide the simple truths – there are 
men ripe as berries in this damp 
patch addressing minor sensibilities 
with their tongue and on their 
knees – here a pronoun is swallow-
ed – here even the shy are 
caught in the brambles – o such un-
disruptive erotics on the O-level  
syllabus and o the black comedy of 
leaf in mouth – twig or bud caught in 
foreskin which is a kind of warm 
bud – we are returning to wild 
things – are watered – are seed – even 
the words are slipping down from their 
margins and onto their knees
 
 
IV
 
longing
               longing            
                              longing 
                                              longing 
                               longing 
                longing
longing
                longing 
                               longing
                                               longing
                                 longing
                 shall find 
its wine 
                in you 
                               in me 
                                                o I am 
                                 alive 
                 to this 
harvest
                of limbs  
                                and words 
                                                o in lon-
                                  ging I am 
                 crushed 
and love
 
 
V
 
cut the scene – are we 
fleshed out or here in voice 
only? lineated echoes 
sounding the scrub – our pink 
and grasping songs 
threading the undergrowth – 
piercing ears bodies – coloraturas 
of gasps and gulps – Edwin 
you watched them 
love and you watched them 
die – each man a thorn 
grown from seed – each man 
lit up with desire like an 
aura – green wreath of grasses 
displayed and lime vibrating – 
but did you touch – is 
Glasgow Green a black 
book or a fabulous and leafy 
fib? o Edwin I am losing 
sight of you – in-between the 
beds of married love – this 
pea soup of green and 
muscled limbs – physical 
moral thriving in shade for 
decades – a century 
green bleeds into the black and 
pools – what is overheard 
comes centre page – a pre-
legal jubilation of crunkled 
leaves and hushed Scots – 
so many half-trysts 
here in Glasgow-bowers 
but can poetry write re-
ciprocity? can you pen a 
thorny love into being 
with subtle and green ink? 
 

VI
 
D'ye                                         thi     
            nk                                                I                   
      cam                                   e          he      re    
jist             fo                           r              that
            ?          I'm                   n          o 
finish         ed                          with         yo
      u                               yet    I'
m         gaun                                        t           o 
hav      e                      youM                          ac 
       if it                       t           akes 
all                                            nightturno       ver 
   you                bast                 ard       tur   
n                 ove           r           t                       
urn       o                      ve                    r          I'll 
 
 
VII
 
forgive me for this green 
intrusion – if poetry 
offered you un-
obtrusively a kind of 
concealment then who 
am I to tear back the 
ivy veil – the wrestling 
under a bush may 
continue – and you did 
bud – at least partially – sticky 
frond formed for the 
informed and campish read-
er to watch unfurl – and 
you were brave – this 
sowing into language 
such pure risk – and 
who am I to think I know 
my way around this 
Green – I am spun and 
spinning and knee-
deep in saplings – 
livid apple blossoms – a 
discarded sachet of 
lube mossing over – does 
honesty shield you from 
loneliness? is disrupting 
language – this un-
lacing of syntax – the truest of 
coming-outs – eruption of 
fabulous and ripe foliage – 
the wilderness – walk 
there – cruise it – reclaim 
it – o Edwin you are 
remoulding this sad square into 
such a wildness for us – 
green and seductively 
gnarled – in this light you are 
some kind of lovely 
dryad – your body all 
leafy and shifting leaves 
and green – and the light 
on those leaves bright – a
shining kind of darkness – you 
are half – all – wilderness 
in the most concrete 
austere of peopled places 
 
 
VIII
 
wilderness
 wilderness
  wilderness
   wilde ness
    wilde ness
     wilde ness
      wild   ness
       wild   ness
        wild   ness
         wil     ness
          wil     ness
           wil     ness
               il     ness
                il     ness
                 il     ness
                  i      ness
                   i      ness
                    i      ness
                            ness
                             ness
                              ness
                       o      ness
                        o      ness
                         o      ness
                          on    ness
                           on    ness
                            on    ness
                             on l  ness
                              on l  ness
                               on l  ness
                               lon l  ness
                                lon l  ness
                                 lon l  ness
                                  lonel ness
                                   lonel ness
                                    lonel ness
                                     loneliness
                                      loneliness
                                       loneliness  
 
 
IX
 
but we are not 
loneliness – so many 
native palms green-
ing out of the Glasgow 
dark – we chorale 
ourselves in the 
dark unlit spaces – o 
clammy moonless 
hour – swathes of green 
fog are shifting across 
the face of this city – a 
cough on a bench 
leads to a mouth of 
teeth – seed-like and flash-
ing – something is 
being said – something is 
happening – ah 
the beauty of a mouth 
which may be kissed and kissed into 
harvest – this is where I 
leave you Edwin – so 
green – so green – maybe not 
even a man anymore –
breathing all this in and 
breathing all this out – my 
footsteps mould to mulch – 
the tissues sodden and 
roll – the stains rot down – 
it shall be served by 
loneliness no 
longer – a note sung on a 
blade – the grass 
whistles – o slippery and 
polyphallic anthem of 
Glasgow Green – o 
greenest call to arms – always 
and now – 
reclaim regain renew

CHRIS BECKETT

Once there were lions

ONCE THERE WERE LIONS IN MILLIONS!
NCE THERE WERE LIONS IN MILLIONS
CE THERE WERE LIONS IN MILLION
E THERE WERE LIONS IN MILLIO
THERE WERE LIONS IN MILLI
HERE WERE LIONS IN MILL
ERE WERE LIONS IN MIL
RE WERE LIONS IN MI
E WERE LIONS IN M
WERE LIONS IN
ERE LIONS I
RE LIONS
E LION
LIO
I

Il Pleut sur EM (after Guillaume Apollinaire)

o          w         s          n          d          d                      IL PLEUT
h          h          o          o          r          o                     sur EM
            y                      w         i           w
h          ?          t                         b
i                       h            i           b           i
s          i           i                          l           f
            t’          s            w         e
 w        s                          o                      h
  a                      s            n          i            e
   t          a           e            d         t
   c          c          d             e         s           f
   h          t           e             r                       e
                i           n                        s           l
    h          v            t              i          o           t  
    a           a           a             f          n              
    s           t             r                         g           o
                 e            y            EM       s            u
     s          d                                                       t
     t                          l               s          d             s
     a            by         i               a            o            i                   
     rt                         f                t            w            d     
     e            w           e                            n             e
     d             r                             w                                           
                    i            sl                a           h             o   
    st             st           o                 t            i             f   
    o                            w               c            s                             
    pp            m            s               h                           T
     i               o                              i            c               i            
     n              v             i                n            a               m                     
      g              e             t                g            r                e                     
                      m                                           e                ?
       a              e           d                 t             h
        g             n           o                 h           o   
        a             t           w                 e           m
        i                              n                              e
         n                                               r             
          !                                               a            w                                      
                                                          i             i
                                                           n           n

Pick me clean 

I have brought you to the Lion Gardens, Edwin, 
   because I believe in you.
I believe you are the hyena in your poem Hyena, you have loped 
all morning through the bush and have not eaten. 
 
                                                 Your purpose is to pick me clean. 
 
Before we get to that, I would like to talk 
   about your heart, 
that thumping fist inside your chest
that is twice the size of a lion’s. 
 
Look at these lions prowling their cages, swishing their black manes 
   like gusts of wind on a prairie. 
They are the sons and daughters of royal lions. 
Haile Selassie held out chunks of goat to them in his little hands. 
 
                                              Now their eyes are tearing us apart.
 
But you can outrun them with your huge heart! I believe 
   in the hugeness of your heart, Edwin. 
That is why I brought you here 
to Addis Ababa. I want to show you where my heart beats fast. 
 
Did you know the female has a pseudo penis? Everything about you 
   is raffish, spotted, opportunist. 
The hunt is on from Glasgow Green 
to Ethiopia. We must hurry up and order coffee, chew some khat. 
 
                                                How else shall the race be served?                                  
 
We are not far from the University. Students piled with spiky hair 
   come here to eat and socialise. 
Love is in the air, prowling these lunchtime trees. 
The boy who takes our order spins and smiles. 
 
                                                 Shall we devour him?
 
This poem is a way of eating. Yes, I like your song, but most of all 
   I love that I believe in you. 
Your eyes so deep, they could be something 
overlooked, a clue, a crowd of fangs.
 
Now I am ready for you. Come out 
of the shadows. Don’t give a fig if I am laughing. 
   That’s a thing I often do 
when reading you. Even if you write a pseudo penis, 
I believe it – as you grip me, pick me clean.

Lion 

I am     i n          love
I am           wh    o        l     e
         a       who l    e     ow   
   a           n      o  o         ow   s!     
           L                  E    O
                                           rs!
                                  wers!
    m a     n     ho  ov            er
            i  n    ho l    es           R!   
                     ho     ve   l        s
   am      o          
            i              love
           l o   w      oves flow
    m a lion         love    low
               n     o!
               n     o   O!
        a                         flower  
  a       lion        lov            er
              O!     O!                  R!!
I am a lion
        a                love           r
                   who          lowers
I am a lion who loves 
I am 
I am    lion who               
I am a lion who loves flowers

Mangoes

There were never mangoes…
like the ones that morning,
orange, squidgy black
and bursting from their skins
on Micky Leland Road,
a stall where fruits like us 
were all a little rotten
and the fruiterer a twinkly boy
looked straight into my eyes
to take our coins
because he understood us
like no-one else in Addis Ababa…
even Abate Mokria,
campest dramatist I ever met,
enquired, why are you both
so old and not yet married? 
or when Hirut whose poems start
Women of the World, unite!
says sweetly: what exactly is 
the business that you partners run? 
 
so we stroll mango-happy
back up to our hotel room
dilating in the altitude
but really just anticipating
and collapse ridiculously sticky 
on our prim twin beds, sunshine 
hot upon us like a blanket and I kiss 
your mouth your chin your chest
thinking of all Ethiopians
who wander arm in arm with other men
and love them in their way
and some of them who love them 
our way too   but secretly
would give up more than mangoes
yes, life itself!   to go on 
walking hand in hand with you
around the edges of a thousand beds
 
while thunder rumbles in the distance
like a lion clearing his throat
and being Japanese you cry out
I’m going! I’m going!
just as the storm breaks over Addis 
and everything is washed
spotlessly, religiously clean
except the cum all over my stomach
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