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Love: 'Strawberries'

'Strawberries' by Edwin Morgan

The poet says...

"Meeting [John Scott] in 1963 was probably the thing that unleashed most of the poems in the 1960s … All the love poems from the 1960s were started off by meeting him and were about him in various ways … Most of them, not every one exactly, but most of them did come out of things that actually happened. 'Strawberries' came out of eating strawberries on that French window, there in fact [points], from which you can see the Kilpatrick Hills, so that just comes from life if you like. It just happened really pretty well exactly as it is there. Most of them are rather like that, though in some cases a bit of imagination comes into it.

Edwin Morgan, interviewed by Christopher Whyte, Nothing Not Giving Messages (1990), pp.174-7

A reader says...

"In its economy of setting and deceptive simplicity of expression, how evocative and sensuous it is from the outset, and how subtly sustained the alliterative pattern of 's' and 'st' sounds pinning its two-beat lines in place. But it is the last line which touchingly clinches things, both at a practical, almost mundance level and in conjuring up, in the intense heat, an alternative urgency. I sense in it a reminder of how moments of intimacy must be grasped, in the face not just of the elements but of mortality."

Stewart Conn in From Saturn to Glasgow (2008)


Teaching ideas


  • Where and when is the poem set?
  • There are just two characters in the poem, the 'I' and the 'you' – what do we learn about each of them?
  • What aspects of the characters does the poet not describe, and how does this affect your reading of the poem?
  • What changes over the course of the poem?
  • Why do you you think the poet chooses not to use any punctuation?
  • What kind of metre does the poet use?
  • Why do you think the poet begins a new verse at l.26?
  • Why do you think the last line is separated from the rest of the poem?
  • Why do you think the poet highlights the 'strawberries' in the title of the poem?
    • He could easily have called it something else – 'Hot sunlight', or 'Forgetfulness', or 'The Storm', for example.


The poem 'Strawberries' poem was composed around 20 January 1965. Edwin Morgan wrote several other poems just before and just after this:

  • 'Absence'
  • 'From the domain of Arnheim'
  • 'Strawberries'
  • 'The suspect'

They are all included, and dated, in The Second Life (1968).

Take one of these poems and compare it with 'Strawberries'. Consider the two poems' similarities and differences in one or more of these areas:

  • subject matter
  • vocabulary
  • form
  • voice
  • mood
  • any changes that occur in the course of the poems
  • the way the characters relate to one another
  • the way the speaker reveals himself
  • the relationship the speaker has to the other character(s)


A summer afternoon

Write a poem about a memorable and enjoyable summer afternoon you spent with someone – a friend, a family member, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Before you write it, think about and make some notes on:

  • where you were
  • who you were with
  • what you did (including perhaps what you ate)
  • the weather
  • anything that changed during the afternoon, for example the weather, or perhaps you travelled from one place to another.

Expressive Arts (Art)


Make a drawing or painting to illustrate 'Strawberries'

The poem takes place in a single location, but over a period of time.

  • How best can you find a single image that represents the whole poem?
  • Think about who and what the poet describes, and how these might be conveyed or interpreted visually.

There are two characters, whose physical relationship to one another is described at various points, for example 'facing each other / your knees held in mine', and 'I bent towards you'.

  • Various objects are mentioned, for example 'strawberries', 'the open french window', 'the two forks crossed'.
  • The wider setting is given too, for example 'that sultry afternoon', 'hot sunlight', 'the Kilpatrick hills'.
  • The 'blue plates' are mentioned in the poem, but which other colours are implied?
  • Which of the above do you want to include in your work, and why?
  • How do you want to present them – sketched and undefined, or in some detail? Why?
  • Think about the point of view – what is in the foreground, middle ground, background?
  • Think about whether you would like to include a line or a phrase from the poem in your finished work.
  • Think about a title for your work
    • Is it simply called 'Strawberries' like the poem, or can you give it another title that is more appropriate or more evocative?

Further reading

Read this poem in…

Morgan, Edwin. The Second Life.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1968.

Voices: An Anthology Of Poetry And Pictures: The Third Book.
Geoffrey Summerfield. Ed.
Middlesex: Penguin Education, 1968.
pp. 70-71 'Strawberries'

O'Hara, Mary. Celebration Of Love.
London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1985.
p. 105 'Strawberries'

Talk Poetry: Edwin Morgan, Selected Poems.
CD. Canto. 1985.

The Hutchinson Book Of Post-War British Poets.
Dannie Abse. Ed. London: Hutchinson, 1989.
p. 150 'Strawberries' next to blemish on page has penciled 'strawberry mark?'

The Nation's Favourite 20th Century Poems.
Griff Rhys Jones. Ed. London: BBC, 1999.
p. 59 'Strawberries'

Edwin Morgan Recorded June 5th 2000 At His Home In Glasgow, Scotland.
CD. The Poetry Archive. Gloucestershire, England.

Morgan dedicated The Second Life to John Scott ('J.G.S.'). Scott died in 1978, and among the later poems about or dedicated to him are 'After a Death' in Sonnets from Scotland (1984), 'A Coach Tour' in Hold Hands Among the Atoms (1991), and 'John 1' and 'John 2' in Love and a Love (2003). Stanzas 4 and 6 of Seven Decades also refer to him.


Related links


Resource written by Ken Cockburn, April 2009




Languages (English), Expressive Arts (Art and Design).


1960s, love, relationships, summer, food