Edwin Morgan was one of the foremost Scottish poets of the twentieth century. During the last three decades of Morgan’s long life, poet Hamish Whyte was first his bibliographer, then (through Mariscat Press) one of his publishers, and finally—and most importantly—his close friend. In Morgan & Me, A Memoir, Whyte has written a personal and evocative memoir that tells the inside story of a life-changing friendship.
We’re delighted to share a short extract from Morgan & Me.
As Eddie worked best in busyness, he also completed the fifty-poem sequence, Love and a Life (this time, variations on a theme). He found himself working on this amazingly frank and revelatory series nearly every day and, as he said, ‘with considerable excitement.’ In an interview with Phil Miller of The Herald he commented:
I honestly don’t know how I started writing this, but I got very excited about the ideas. There’s something about autumn that made me think back and take stock of my life.
An unaccustomed direction for Eddie to look.
After the frenzy of writing Love and a Life had died down and he realised what he had actually written, Eddie began to have doubts. He initially felt the poems shouldn’t be published until after his death—he worried they were too personal, too raw; and they named names. He asked me what to do. I was his friend as well as his publisher. So of course I said they should be published. I thought he had nothing to fear.
The launch of Love and a Life at Borders bookshop in Glasgow on 27 May 2003 was Eddie’s last major public appearance before entering a care home. He was eighty-three. It was a memorable event.
The printer had been somewhat dilatory (printers’ disease) but we had managed to secure enough advance copies for the launch (hastily bound, many of them fell apart later). Eddie held the large audience—mainly young people, all clutching their copies snapped up before the reading—absolutely entranced with this honest autobiographical journey through his life and loves.
Beforehand, I had dared Eddie to read the most sexually explicit poems—and he did. He was a brave man—and mischievous (he knew about shock value).
There was a smaller gathering at the Scottish Poetry Library on 5 July to celebrate the book. And that was his last reading in public.
From Morgan & Me: A Memoir by Hamish Whyte
HappenStance Press, 2020. £10
Order a copy here.