Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Poem of the week - "Death in Duke Street" by Edwin Morgan

If you met me, you would probably never guess that I liked poetry, and I probably never would have if it wasn't for one poet, Edwin Morgan. Many Scottish people, and namely, supporters of the Scottish National Party (boo hiss) latch onto Robert Burns, yet, I'd take Morgan over Burns every day of the week. His poems vary from realism to surrealism, yet every one is distinctive and characteristically Edwin Morgan's own.

A huddle on the greasy street –
cars stop, nose past, withdraw –
dull glint on soles of tackety boots,
frayed rough blue trousers, nondescript coat
stretching back, head supported
in strangers’ arms, a crowd collecting –
‘whit’s wrang?’ ‘Can ye see’m?’
‘an auld fella, he’s had it.’
On one side, a young mother in a headscarf
is kneeling to comfort him, her three-year-old son
stands puzzled, touching her coat, her shopping bag
spills its packages that people look at
as they look at everything. On the other side
a youth, nervous, awkwardly now
at the centre of attention as he shifts his arm
on the old man’s shoulders, wondering
what to say to him, glancing up at the crowd.
These were next to him when he fell,
and must support him into death.
He seems not to be in pain,
he is speaking slowly and quietly
but he does not look at any of them,
his eyes are fixed on the sky,
already he is moving out
beyond everything belonging.
As if he still belonged
they hold him very tight.

Only the hungry ambulance
howls for him through the staring squares.

Morgan has also heavily influenced the Scottish music scene, this was shown by the 'Ballads of the Book' compilation which features Scottish bands using Morgan's words as lyrics.

The album was curated by Idlewild lead singer Roddy Woomble, Morgan features on one of Idlewild's most epic songs;

Idlewild feat. Edwin Morgan - In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction

It isn't in the mirror, it isn't on the page
It's a red hearted vibration
Pushing through the walls of dark imagination
Finding no equation
There's a red road rage,
But it's not road rage
It's asylum seekers engulfed by a grudge

Scottish friction, Scottish fiction

It isn't in the castle, it isn't in the mist
It's a calling of the waters as they break to show
The new black death with reactors aglow
Do you think your security can keep you in purity?
You will not shake us off
Above or below

Scottish friction, Scottish fiction


  1. Local poets? That's a tall order. I don't think there are any poets from Highland Park that I'd quote. Though I do think a MacArthur Grant recipient lives around the corner... but I don't think she got it for poetry...

  2. Edwin is the best living Scottish poet, forget Carolann Duffy's pish.

    Good choice, my man, and great song to boot.

    Keep it up.

  3. @Carolyn How about New Jersey poets? Sure to be loads! @Matthew Cheers buddy I try my best :)

  4. Randall Jarrell is a pretty famous American poet who went to my high school. Here's a few lines from his poem "The Woman At The Washington Zoo:"

    The saris go by me from the embassies.

    Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.
    They look back at the leopard like the leopard.

  5. Excellent poem, I spend most of my time on the web, looking for good poems, I found them very inspirational when one is feeling a little with the blues.

  6. One thing that it makes a persons. It is the way that he live and how people are impacted when they meet each other.