Archive for August, 2010

Edwin Morgan 1920-2010

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I’m sure it’s news to no one here that the inimitable Edwin Morgan passed away last week, and tributes have been flooding in from all over the UK literary community, the blogosphere and beyond. I feel there’s very little for me to add — Morgan has been universally acknowledged as a literary giant, a truly unique intellect and a wonderful man. However, I couldn’t let such a momentous event pass without adding my own small tribute here.

Edwin Morgan has been a massive influence on my work. I started reading his work at a very young age — I was given an anthology of poetry for children edited by Michael Rosen, and one of my favourite poems from it was Computer’s First Christmas Card. I first got my hands on a book of Morgan’s own poetry at the age of 12, when I studied the Stobhill series at high school, and basically fell in love with his work. At that point, I hadn’t begun writing myself — so he was undoubtedly partly responsible for my transformation from reader to writer.

My all-time favourite Morgan poem is definitely When You Go, which I spoke about as part of the Carry A Poem project last year. However, Morgan produced so many incredible, magical works throughout his life. He also touched the lives of readers all over the world, but particularly here in Scotland. Over the past few days I have spoken with so many people — friends, fellow poets, readers, Festival visitors and strangers alike — who all have the same story as me. Edwin Morgan wrote something that touched them, changed them; so many people cite a line or a stanza or a whole poem that they carry around with them like a talisman. In Scotland, Morgan was a literary rockstar — endlessly innovative and challenging, inspiring fans of all ages and walks of life. His departure is the end of an era not only for our literary community, but for our national identity. Personally, I feel I’ve lost a great influence, a mentor and an old and dear friend.

Goodbye Eddie. Thank you.

(Photo by goforchris)

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Writing for theatre masterclass with Douglas Maxwell

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Hello there, ONS-ers… long time no speak. You may have noticed that the scenery hasn’t changed much lately here, or perhaps you’ve spotted some of the heaps of spam comments beginning to clog up some of the posts. Sorry, and sorry… I’ve been insanely busy these past couple of months. Right now, I am teaching creative writing at the Scottish Universities International Summer School, based at the University of Edinburgh. I’m loving every second, but it doesn’t leave much time for updating ONS… or indeed, anything else. However, last week my students and I were treated to a brilliant masterclass on ‘writing for theatre’, given by Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell. I know, I know, this is a poetry blog — but he came out with so much brilliant stuff that I felt I had to share just a few of his pearls of wisdom with you…

“Being a playwright is a bit like being in The Who. We’re wild, we’re messy, we’re all over the shop… but we’re great live.”

“Everyone in the world has an unfinished novel or screenplay under the bed. But they’re not in the game. That’s not doing it; that’s pretending.”

“You need two personalities to be a good writer — you need the sensitive artist who’s a satellite to the rest of the world… but you also need a kind of ‘fuck you’ attitude — you’ve got to have the steel and not let this destroy you.”

“Day One writing is always good — everyone likes the first day. day Two: not so good. You get up in the morning and go ‘what the fuck? Someone’s messed with this! This was great yesterday!'”

“You’ve got to remember what it’s like when you’ve paid to see the thing… audiences really want it to be good, at the beginning. They want to help you.”

“You must, must protect yourself from bitterness. It’s a talent-eater. It’s like cocaine, it destroys lives. You’ve got to keep your enthusiasm and your openness, or you’ll never get anywhere.”

“Your main character must make a big decision — the ‘to be or not to be’ moment where they can go one way or the other. And the way they go will take them, and you, to the end. And they either get or don’t get what they always wanted.”

“Even on the very worst day, just get to the place where you write, and wait.”

Douglas Maxwell’s Decky Does A Bronco is currently showing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

(Photo by Eric Lafforgue)

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