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Centenary celebrations for poet Edwin Morgan to be reimagined online

© Edwin Morgan Trust/PA WireEdwin Morgan
Edwin Morgan

The centenary celebration of one of Scotland’s greatest poets, Edwin Morgan, is being reimagined and expanded for online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Edwin Morgan Trust said that plans are being put in place to commemorate the former Scots makar’s work in the absence of physical events.

Morgan was born in the west end of Glasgow on April 27 1920 and died aged 90 in August 2010.

As part of the celebrations, a new online video channel – Hold Hands Among the Atoms – will launch on Monday April 27 on what would have been the poet’s 100th birthday.

It will feature elements originally planned for the public programme of #EdwinMorgan100, alongside new material created especially for the online channel.

It aims to bring together diverse voices and perspectives from across the globe to celebrate the poet’s work and life.

It will launch with a short film, Open the Doors!, featuring contributions from Morgan’s friends, collaborators and celebrity fans including current makar Jackie Kay, former makar Liz Lochhead, ex-UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, actors Alan Cumming and Kate Dickie, and singer Eddi Reader.

The trust has also announced an artist grant scheme, supported by Creative Scotland and the Saltire Society, which will provide funding for creative people working in a variety of art forms to respond to Morgan’s work.

Robyn Marsack, a friend of Morgan’s and the trustee leading the centenary celebrations, said: “When Edwin turned 80, he wrote a poem about pushing the boat out into the unknown – unknown is best, he declared.

“I can’t guess what he would have thought about the pandemic but I can be sure that his restless, dauntless imagination would have engaged with it.”

She added: “What a great example of inquiring creativity, of energy, humour and belief in human capacity he remains to us and how important it is to be reminded of an imagination and linguistic vitality that soars from his beloved Glasgow to Saturn and back.

“We wanted to encourage artists to respond to his work in a virtual space while social distancing is in place, to reach audiences through all the various media at their disposal in the way that Edwin, with his wide interests and curiosity, would have wished.

“The trust is delighted that Creative Scotland and the Saltire Society are enabling us to offer these opportunities to artists at a time when ‘unknown’ feels frightening – we hope we can all take courage from Edwin’s words.”

A new video will be released on the 27th of every month from April to December this year on Hold Hands Among the Atoms, the title of which is taken from the cycle of 70 social poems Morgan wrote for his 70th birthday – the year he announced publicly that he was gay.

Readers from around the world are being invited to share their favourite Morgan poems on social media on Monday April 27 across video, text or any other medium they find appropriate, using the hashtags #edwinmorgan100 and #holdhandsamongtheatoms.

Morgan was recognised as one of the great poets of the 20th century and was appointed Scots makar, in effect Scotland’s poet laureate, in 2004 by then-first minister Jack McConnell.

During his life he published 25 collections of poetry, translated hundreds of poems and wrote plays.