Edwin Morgan’s life story is really found in his poetry and translations, collected in two volumes of almost 500 pages each in 1996. He continued to publish further admired collections, the latest Dreams and Other Nightmares in 2010, the year of his death. To this body of poetry we should also add his plays in the 1980s and 1990s, librettos and song lyrics from the 1960s onwards, and remarkable performance pieces written for jazz accompaniment in the 1990s.
As a young poet, Morgan’s socialist and republican sympathies aligned him with Hugh MacDiarmid’s work for a Scottish literary and political renaissance. Yet he remained something of an outsider, partly by reason of his homosexuality, and partly because of his commitment not to rural Scotland but rather to urban inventiveness and energy, encapsulated in his native city of Glasgow, where he lived, taught and wrote. The sheer range of his work influenced many Scottish poets of succeeding generations, attracted by its international outlook and openness to avant-garde experiment, and also by the unfailing generosity of time and attention that he always gave to new writers.
Graduating on his return from war service with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Middle East, he became a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow, retiring as Professor in 1980. His edited collections of Scottish satirical verse and English longer poems, as well as many hundreds of critical essays and literary reviews, point towards this other life as an academic and cultural activist. He received many literary awards, including the Soros Translation Award (New York, 1985), the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (1997) and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry (2000). He was appointed National Poet for Scotland in 2004.