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Edwin Morgan was a Senior Lecturer when I studied English Literature at the University of Glasgow, and he then supervised my postgraduate research on modernist poetry. I pursued this part-time through most of the 1970s. The particular focus was Basil Bunting, a Northumbrian who learned much from Ezra Pound (including what to avoid). I remained friendly with Edwin Morgan thereafter—easy to do.
In the late 1990s when he fell ill with prostate cancer and finally had to move into a care home, I was a main contact person for him, helping with practical and financial matters and seeing him frequently in the last ten years of his life. From our many conversations at this time came ideas for a biography, which he was keen to pursue.
The biography was originally proposed by Bob Davidson of the small (but now award-winning) Sandstone Press, based in Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands. Their independent approach and Scottish locus both seemed in tune with Morgan’s work, and with his lifelong support for Scottish and other non-metropolitan editors and publishers.
Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan (2010 hardback, then 2012 in paperback) was also based on the poet’s extensive collection papers, letters and manuscripts which he had donated to the Department of Special Collections in Glasgow University Library. The paperback has additional material and is also available as an e-book.
Liz Lochhead wrote a moving play about this biographical process: Edwin Morgan’s Dreams and Other Nightmares. It was produced at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow in 2011 and again in 2014.
More information on James McGonigal’s research on Edwin Morgan