Scotland is a nation that takes poetry seriously—its national day, after all, honors Robert Burns.
How seriously? Take the new Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, launched this weekend at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and worth £20,000 ($31,300).
The new award, as the official release makes clear,
“is the result of a bequest by the late Scottish Makar, Edwin Morgan (1920-2010), and a Trust has been established in his name to administer the award and further promote poetry in Scotland.”
The first modern Scots Makar (Scotland’s Poet Laureate), Morgan inherited substantial investments from his parents, which grew still further in the hands of his retained advisors. One of Scotland’s most overtly gay poets in his later life, Morgan left no heirs, and dedicated his fortune to cultural and nationalistic purposes, donating almost £1 million ($1.566 million) to the Scottish National Party, and a similar amount to support young Scottish poets and other literary causes.
The new prize “will be awarded biennially for the best collection of poems, published or unpublished, by a young Scottish poet under the age of thirty.”
Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan’s successor as Scots Makar, introduced the launch event in the Festival, remarking “Edwin Morgan was somebody who loved the future.” Also present and reading at the event were three of the winners of the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition “which the new award supersedes,” Paul Batchelor, Jen Hadfield and Jane McKie.
David Kinloch, fellow poet and Morgan’s executor, said in the release:
“This award is aimed at young poets partly because Edwin Morgan never forgot the difficulties that beset him as a young writer trying to get into print. We welcome any collections submitted for the award which can contain poems written in English, Scots or Gaelic.”
The creation of this Award leaves financial and popular support for poetry south of the Border looking dismal by comparison. Morgan looks to have transformed the fortunes and standing of his medium as well as his nation—his generosity was almost heroic, and his wealth should put paid to any lingering fears among young poets that only poverty awaits them. Not to mention what he did himself to make sure they are left free to write. (Watch out for the upcoming review of the e-book version of his “Collected Poems”, from Carcanet, here on TeleRead.)
Entrants for the Award must be “born in Scotland, or resident in Scotland for the last two years, or brought up in Scotland, or having a Scottish parent.” Full details of the award may be found at www.edwinmorganaward.com.