A podcast about the life and context of Scottish poet and translator, Edwin Morgan, and
what it means personally to a totally different artist.
Taking his breakthrough poetry collection, The Second Life, as a starting point, presenter Ishbel
McFarlane explores the personal and professional world that influenced Morgan. Looking at
the changes in his home life, his love affair with John Scott and the huge societal shifts in
post-war Scotland, Morgan’s second life is then compared with Ishbel’s own second life as a
mother in Glasgow today.
Looking at the LGBTQ history of Glasgow, language learning, translation and the nature of
change, the podcast is a personal exploration of the life and work of Scotland’s most
influential poet of the last fifty years.
You can hear the podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Podbean and below!
Through Edwin Morgan’s 1968 poem The Second Life, writer Ishbel McFarlane explores his life and loves, as well as her own experiences as a new mum.
The 1960s were a time of change for Glasgow and for Morgan. As the slums came down, Morgan found love. The appearance of John Scott in his life transformed his work and his world, as surely as the motorways and New Towns were transforming Scotland.
In 2020, Ishbel is navigating her own second life, finding joy, struggle and change.
Ishbel takes a walk from her flat to Edwin Morgan’s flat, in the West End of Glasgow, exploring her new maps of Glasgow as a mother, and Morgan’s maps of Glasgow as a gay man.
On the journey we encounter the song The Remote Part/Scottish Fiction from indie band Idlewild, which features Morgan’s voice. We also look at Morgan’s famous and often studied poem from 1963 Glasgow Green, and his autobiographical poem, Seven Decades.
What is it to live somewhere for a long time? What is it to make the map over and over and over? If you change, does the city change too? And how in the name of the wee man did folk not realise that Edwin Morgan wrote poems about being gay?
Language learning is a common theme in Edwin Morgan’s poetry and a hugely dominant element of Ishbel’s life, as her toddler daughter learns to speak.
Though Morgan didn’t have children, a fascination with the nature and politics of language learning is shared between Edwin and Ishbel. Ishbel interviews her husband again, four months after their first interview, to talk about their obsession with May’s language, and how and what she is learning – an interest which is both mildly professional and intensely personal.
Meanwhile, Morgan’s poetry goes into space as coloniser-scientists we can recognise from Scotland’s own imperial history are changed by their interactions with ‘natives’ in ‘The First Men On Mercury’.
As Ishbel concludes the podcast series, she returns to Edwin Morgan’s first big piece of work as a writer: his 1952 translation of Beowulf. The translation was written in what Morgan called his ‘dark decade’ – the time immediately after the war and before his ‘second life’ with flat, and John, and a poetry career. Ishbel wonders what effect the place and time when it was written has on the translation.
Falling into the complexity and layers of translation, Ishbel attempts to pull herself out by rolling her sleeves up and having a go at some Beowulf translation of her own – trying to find a glimpse of an Anglo-Saxon mother, and adapting it to her own Scots language.