In March 2021 we teamed up with Gutter Magazine to launch ‘All Things Are Possible’ a competition for poets over 40, judged by Christine de Luca and Janette Ayachi.

The response was overwhelming – and judges Christine and Janette had their work cut out for them, reducing an initial shortlist of 20 down to one winner and ten highly commended poems.

We found judging the submissions a demanding task as, in every case, we were thinking not just ‘how good is this poem?’ but also ‘in what way does this poem relate to Morgan’s work?’ Given that he was a poet well-versed in form but untrammelled by convention, we expected (and were not disappointed) in the huge variety of submissions received: from concrete and word play, to instamatic to more lyrical or formal. The quality was generally high, so it was a question of ‘Is this appealing concrete poem better than that stunning formal poem? Is it fresh and in the spirit of Morgan, or somewhat derivative?’ Tricky questions for us, repeated hundreds of times.

The initial sift was thus difficult as, individually, we weighed up poems of very different types. However, once we had decided on a long list, the job became easier and we found agreement on a shortlist of around 20 poems relatively easy to achieve. Eventually we met on Zoom to pick the 11, including a winner, sadly having to set aside some lovely poems. We were surprised at how easy we found it was to agree; and perhaps even more surprised that, although neither of us would have thought of concrete poetry as our favourite form, how much we admired some of those submissions, including the winning poem.

We were excited by the breadth of poems which came to the top and can only hope that Morgan himself might have approved.

Janette Ayachi & Christine De Luca

The winner of competition was Gillian Dawson for her poem ‘Murmuration’. Highly commended included ‘monk/seal’ by Victoria MacKenzie, ‘Learning Curves’ by Finola Scott, ‘My beautiful violin’ by John Naismith, ‘Herbie’ by Susannah Wise, ‘Beside You’ by Martin Meyler, ‘Slán Leat’ by Caroline Bracken, ‘First Date With My CT Scanner’ by Kate Hendry, ‘Arrival’ by Morag Anderson, ‘Everything Related’ by Jim McElroy and ‘Instamatic’ by Jane Boxall.

Gutter Magazine issue 24 was launched on a live zoom event on August 19, with readings from shortlisted poets as well as an introduction from Edwin Morgan Trust Chair, David Kinloch.

You can buy Gutter Magazine issue 24 on their website here!

While the Edwin Morgan Trust was set up in part to fulfil Edwin Morgan’s wish to encourage young poets with a substantial award, we also recognise that Morgan’s breakthrough collection, The Second Life, emerged when he was 40. This happened after a long fallow period, and in talking about it with Marshall Walker, Morgan said:

“I had often felt pessimistic about the way my writing was going, wondering in fact whether I could do anything about it and of course usually coming to the conclusion that there is nothing one can do except be patient and hope that things will change in oneself. I think that probably if you are going to write well at all at any time you have to have this kind of patience or even belief more than patience.”

We are delighted to honour that patience and belief and celebrate The Edwin Morgan Centenary through this partnership with Gutter for ‘All Things are Possible’. Engaging with Morgan’s themes and forms meant that the field was very wide open: after all, Morgan was still inventing new stanza forms in his last collections, and becoming ever more candid about his life and loves, his political opinions, his relationship with his city and country; always on the move imaginatively.

Thank you to the poets who took up the challenge, who believed in themselves as writers, and thank you to the judges who patiently sifted through hundreds of poems in making their choices. Congratulations to those published in this issue of Gutter: we hope that you will continue to draw creative energy from Morgan’s life and work.

Edwin Morgan Trust

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