james mcgonigal
Poet  •  Critic

Contact  James McGonigal

Edwin Morgan’s letters reveal his inner and his outer life. He valued privacy, with the space and time to write creatively. But he also needed engagement with the external world of politics, people, publishing, scientific exploration and avant-garde experiment. Letters provided this contact in a medium that he responded to, arriving daily at his flat in Anniesland in Glasgow and quickly being replied todutifully, thoughtfully, humorously or critically as the occasion demanded.

Thousands of letters were archived with his Papers in the University of Glasgow Library, and he often attached carbon copies or photocopies of his own replies. I had used quotation from these to enliven Beyond the Last Dragon, so that Morgan’s distinctive voice and personality became an intrinsic part of the biography. It seemed worthwhile to provide a range of complete letters, and Carcanet Press agreed to publish it, with explanatory notes and brief outlines of the social contexts in which the letters were written. Quotation can’t really do justice to the epistolary variety across sixty years. I have written about the process of selection in PN Review and The Dark Horse (see As Critic page).

There was a particular enjoyment in working with my fellow editor, Dr John Coyle, who had been Head of English Literature in Glasgow University. As students there in different decades we had both been taught by Morgan. So there was a combination of dutifulness and irreverence as we revisited our own pasts and his. That combination was part of the poet’s style and life-style too. Dr Linden Bickett of Scottish Literature in the University and Dr Helen Tookey of Carcanet Press gave vital help with transcription and design, and Sarah Hepworth, Depute of Special Collections, provided guidance and support throughout the several years involved in filling The Midnight Letterbox.


Letter to Allen Ginsberg

Letter to Ted Hughes


Letter to Martin Bax


Letter to Veronica Forrest-Thomson

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