Speculative Books celebrated #EdwinMorgan100 with a centenary collection edited by Colin Herd, with writers responding to the scrapbooks of Edwin Morgan. This unique collection ‘opened the doors!’ to Edwin Morgan’s work and to new responses from writers including: Eileen Farrelly, Eloise Birtwhistle, Liz Lochhead, Samuel Tongue, Katie Veitch, Lesley Capitanchik, Rhys Trimble, Sean Wai Keung, Glenna Jones, A C Clarke, Gaar Adams, Beag Horn, Molly McLachlan, Mike Ferguson, Lucy Cash, Estelle Price, Ellen MacAskill, Helen Boden, Scott Norval, Gillian Dawson, William Bonar, Angie Spoto, Nat Raha, Leyla Josephine, R.A.Davis, Shirley Bell, Kate Lynch, Nuala Watt, Julie Laing, Mairi Jack, Eleanor Capaldi, Laura Bissell, K. Patrick, Lesley Morrison, Andrés Ordorica, Neil Thomson, Heather Middleton, Beth Cochrane, Jim Nelson, Sheila Scott, Greg Thomas, J L Williams, Henry Bell, Russell Jones, Jane Aldous, Seth Crook, Michael Black, Tessa Berring, Kathrine Sowerby, Maria Sledmere, N.T. Smith, Lizzie Eldridge, Kieron Baird, Stephen Watt, Sarah Dolan, Ruby McCann, Ian Macartney, Shehzar Doja, Finola Scott, and Katherine Mackinnon. You can buy the collection here and enjoy reflections from Speculative books and editor Colin Herd below.

Speculative Books:

We are sitting by a river in Pollock park in Glasgow.  Can you hear the birds, I saw a duck over there a minute ago. It’s a hot day, the sun is out but we are under a tree. We’re going to do a book launch. We have invited, 40 poets to come along and do a wee reading by this stream, it’s not a live stream, this stream is pre-recorded! This online podcast book launch is part of the Edwin Morgan Centenary. we were asked by the Edwin Morgan Foundation to make a book of writing inspired by Edwin Morgan, and specifically, his Scrap books.

Edwin Morgan is widely recognised as one of the foremost Scottish poets of the 20th century. In 1999, Morgan was made the first Glasgow Poet Laureate and the 27th of April would have been his hundredth birthday. Before he published his first collection of poetry, Edwin Morgan made a series of visually arresting, playful, dynamic scrapbooks. A queer visual diary, a catalogue of images, and a surreal bricolage, the scrapbooks were a resource and a testing ground as Morgan developed his distinctively experimental and anti-orthodox poetics. 

Speculative Books have teamed up with The Edwin Morgan Foundation and Glasgow University to bring you The Centenary Collection, a collection inspired by those scrap books.

Colin Herd who as well as being the Head of Creative Writing at Glasgow, held work shops around the scrap books and was the editor for the collection. 

The book is available now you can buy it from SpeculativeBooks.net

Thank you to all the contributors, thank you to the Edwin Morgan Foundation for contacting us, thank you to Colin Herd for putting together such an excellent collection.  

And thank you to Edwin Morgan, the Original Glasgow Poet Laureate, Happy Birthday.

Speculative Books, 2020

Colin Herd:

Opening one of the weighty ledgers of Edwin Morgan’s scrapbooks held in the Special Collections of University of Glasgow is a deliciously bizarre experience: an opportunity to trip into a queer visual diary, a catalogue of poetic images, a surreal bricolage of high and low art, politics, global affairs and zoology. 

In the early part of 2020 we held a series of workshops, inviting writers to respond in any way they chose to what they found in the scrapbooks. During the workshops, I kept a tally of some of things we encountered: resurrection and martyrdom, rats in loaves, spiny lobsters, flying snails, snowy mountain peaks, macros and zooms, American footballers, dying hippopotamus, a naked clam wearing its shell inside, Seahorses, body builders, scallopshells, the fertility of sea urchins, Russian poetry, Victorian family portrait photography, fans, giant flowers, friezes, columns, lunar cycles, leaping cats, glaciers, water fleas, coins, classical sculpture, stained glass, microbes, spores, cosmos, spooky rabbits, wiggly doodles, palaces, pianos, biscuits, stone masks, Goya, Bass fish, Persian rugs, bulls, mushrooms, skiing, gems, Chaplin as a boy at 12, worms, Loch Ness Monster Mania, ferns, owls, rabbits, narcissi, diagrams of hearts, rats eating children, Belsen, Burns suppers, Haifa, snakes, turtles, Chinese paintings. 

I’m reminded of a line from one of Morgan’s brilliant translations of the Hungarian poet Sándor Weöres: ‘the whole world finds room under my eyelid’ (Collected
Translations, 92). The scrapbooks – which were produced by Morgan before he was a published poet – acted as a resource and a testing ground as he developed his distinctively experimental and anti-orthodox poetics. They feel like an outlet, a space for thinking through, channelling and embedding oneself within material culture. And while they feel anomalous, singular, idiosyncratic, the scrapbooks also chime with the collage work of 20th Century poet-artists such as Jess (1923-2004) and John Ashbery (1927 – 2017), artists whose work likewise sifts through the thickness and viscosity of pop print culture to bring the surface to the surface and find ways to resist, trouble and redefine the poetic value of ‘depth’. 

I’m delighted that some of this variousness and multi-directionality has made its way into the texts in this anthology, which are characterised by their plurality, disunity, diversity and strangeness – in the best ways possible. I also feel like some of the formal dynamics of the scrapbooks, such as layering, pasting, surfaces, arranging, visual interest, juxtaposition, are also hallmarks of the exciting writing collected here. This anthology wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and enthusiasm of Speculative Books, Edwin Morgan Centenary, The Edwin Morgan Trust and Special Collections of the University of Glasgow.

Colin Herd, 2020

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