WHEN it comes to aging, sometimes the publishing world can appear more cut-throat than a beauty pageant.

Many prizes single out those under 40 or 30 as though those were peaks to reach and not promising beginnings. While it’s important to nurture talent, particularly in those marginalised and bereft of the material securities behind some careers, it can convey the impression that taking more swings around the sun before you write is some kind of failure.

Certainly, that’s how I felt sheepishly committing myself to study writing in my 40s and being reassured by one classmate that it was OK, I looked younger, must be the yoga. In truth, it was more likely the zits, but I was supposed to take it as a complement. At least grease don’t crease.

I’ve lost count of the potential writers who have confided in me that it’s too late for them to find success, they’ve sacrificed themselves too much to career or care, or they’ve held their work so tight in a hostile world that it may never see the light of day. Yet these are the precise rich, varied and unique human stories, survivor outgrowths, twists and knots, that I really want to read as an editor of a ­literary magazine like Gutter – and ­writers can find fulfilment writing.

READ MORE: Edwin Morgan's centenary cause for a year long celebration

To help, I always prescribe Edwin ­Morgan’s At Eighty to blast the cobwebs out. There’s nothing quite like standing on a chair and yelling “push the boat out!” as loud as you can to rekindle that much-needed Dead Poets Society sense of creative adventure.

But deeper study of Morgan’s astonishing and constant poetic reinvigorations can also provide sustenance to anyone feeling like they are sliding downhill – and let’s face it, after this lockdown that’s all of us.

In particular, The Second Life, the ­titular poem of a collection he published at 48, contains some of Morgan’s best rallying cries to keep living, noticing and writing. “Is it true that we come alive/not once, but many times?” Morgan asks, observing a May-day Glasgow teeming with life and sensing “that rising spirit/all things are possible, he rises with it/until he can never die”.

It is apt then that the Edwin Morgan Trust have chosen to celebrate ­Morgan’s centenary this spring with not one but two projects inspired by this poem. Firstly, their Second Life series of artistic grants and now a truly unique All Things Are Possible poetry competition for ­writers 40 and over with Gutter ­magazine.

Gutter, as befits its name, has always been a petri-dish for promising new ­Scottish writing, uniting literary greats like Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay and James Kelman with first-time ­secret scribblers.

While the annual Edwin Morgan ­Poetry Award for unpublished ­collections by poets under 30 has bolstered several ­generations of new talent, we hope the new All Things Are Possible competition will blast a second wind into the sails of those writers on the other end of the age spectrum by awarding £500 to the ­winner and publication in Gutter, ­alongside 10 of the runners up.

Especially now, this is an age group worth celebrating. At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the catastrophic thoughts I battled was the loss of our ­elders and the tragedy of so many stories slipping out of reach.

It’s lazy to bundle this group together as ‘boomers’ beyond caring, or the sole reason for regressive fantasias in our ­culture. I think of my parents apologising for “their generation’s failure” to support independence. I think of the wisdom of an 80-year-old who told me about feeding wood through a sawmill that then hit bullets from the Russian Revolution and exploded. She still coughed from the effects of the dust. I think of the “aunties” I met recently who shared pakora recipes online for a Burns supper, handing the words like tastes through the mouths of the younger women translating.

IF this pandemic has taught us anything it’s the value of what we could be losing: the dignity, diversity and richness of growing older and accruing more life. We hope this prize produces a poem that questions ageist assumptions and opens up a conversation between different generations, a poem with Morgan’s unquenchable thirst for life despite these very mortal times.

As for me, I suspect my sparkling lockdown greys prevent anyone mistaking my age, but I hope, like them, more writers display their age as a badge of honour. As Morgan reminds us, “The old seeds are awake./Slip out of darkness, it is time”.

For more details on The Gutter & Edwin Morgan Trust Poetry Competition including judges Christine de Luca and Janette Ayachi see https://www.guttermag.co.uk/edwinmorgan100