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Border BlursConcrete Poetry in England and Scotland$
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Greg Thomas

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620269

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620269.001.0001

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Edwin Morgan

(p.115) Chapter Four Off-Concrete
Border Blurs

Greg Thomas

Liverpool University Press

The Glaswegian poet Edwin Morgan coined the term ‘off-concrete’ to describe one of his own concrete poems. In this chapter, the term is used to characterise his overall approach to the style, which expressed both a keen enthusiasm for the classical concrete poetry of the 1950s-60s and a pronounced scepticism regarding its formal and ideological limits. One of many styles with which Morgan experimented during the 1950s-70s – also including beat and sci-fi poetry – concrete poetry was a means both of expressing his opposition to the parochialism of Scottish literary modernist culture and of redefining that culture as internationalist and technologically oriented. At the same time, Morgan’s incorporation of narrative voices and specific thematic scenarios into the concrete poem – ranging from outer space to the animal kingdom, and periodically expressing Scottish-nationalist and anti-colonialist politics – reflects his desire to extend and subvert the grammars of concrete poetry. This dialectical movement propelled his concrete practice forwards from 1962 until around the close of the 1960s, by which time his engagement with the style was waning. However, by the 1970s, a new variant of concrete poetry, more responsive to sound poetry and new Scottish poetry in dialect, had begun to animate Morgan’s practice.

Keywords:   Edwin Morgan, Concrete poetry, Scottish literary modernism, Internationalist, Technology, Sci-fi, Animals, Scottish nationalism, Anticolonialist, Sound poetry

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