Donald Adamson is a poet and translator.  He was born and educated in Dumfries, Scotland, and at Edinburgh University, where he did an M.Litt. in Applied Linguistics.


For many years he taught English as a Foreign Language, and later worked for Longman Publishing as an editor and author of EFL textbooks.


In 1995 he was awarded a Scottish Arts Council writer’s bursary. He has lived in France, the Middle East, and Finland, and currently divides his time between Finland and Scotland.


He has translated Finnish poems for How to address the fog: Finnish poems 1978-2002 (Carcanet/Scottish Poetry Library, 2005); also song texts for the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, and for the World Music group Värttinä. He is currently working on translations of the Finnish Nobel Prize nominee, Eeva Kilpi.


Donald has been an adjudicator and organiser of poetry competitions. He co-founded the Scottish arts and literature magazine Markings, and has had two pamphlet collections published (Clearer Water, and The Gift of Imperfect Lives). 


He has been a prizewinner in several poetry competitions (Glasgow University /Radio Clyde; Northwords; Dumfries and Galloway Survivors Group).


His poem ‘Fause Prophets’, which in 1999 won the Herald Millennium Poetry Competition, is buried in a time capsule under the walls of the Scottish Poetry Library.  


He is also a poetry performer, and a member of the Solway Festival Poets. His poems have been broadcast, and have  been translated into Finnish and Romanian.



From Coiled Roots


Donald Adamson


ISBN 978-1-909357-17-4


Publication 20th May 2013




216 x 138 mm


92 pages


£8.95 + P&P
















A Colonial Officer Visits Perim

They brought him in the motor launch

from Al Turbah. Heavy keys

opened the long-locked bungalow

and dust choked the room as shutters were thrown back.

The motes danced, then settled. ‘Leave me’ he said.


He was hungry. Some herdsmen

gave him goat-stew and rice.

The sun was low as he pulled his chair to a balcony

half-filled, waterlogged with sand.

He poured a beer, body-warm,

and slumped back, could have dozed off


when the great liner, India-bound,

surprised him, gliding towards him

in a calm intricacy of light. It was close enough

to hear the band playing a quickstep.

His mind filled in the rest:

the tables, the glasses cold enough for rivers to form

at a fingertip, the stewards

crisp and trim, white-jacketed,

the ordered universe, deck upon deck –


then it was gone. Only the wake, phosphorescent,

unravelling like wool, betrayed its passing.

Shepherds had lit a fire

against a backdrop of date palms. Moving shapes

threw shadows from a kerosene lamp

and someone sang to a drum.

But later there was silence,

only the night, a wind blowing

stronger now, crashing onto the land,

breaking slowly, slowly like a wave.



(Perim is an island in the Red Sea, where it joins the Gulf of Aden)



The Experiment


He’s mixed the chemicals,

simulated comets, lightning,

mud and lava.


Strands are replicating

just as they would have done

three billion years ago –


seething, threshing under the microscope.

They smell almost human.

He recognises this one – that one –


the sad, the satisfied,

the triumphant,

his children. None of them


are damned yet or even

predestined. He wonders

what snake will be theirs, what Satan


and remembers Sunday School,

Jesus with his lamp and his beard,

God is Love in coloured ink:


theologies as innocent as petals,

a bright, jewelled scattering

on a long, dark road.




To My Father, on the Anniversary of His Death


We grow older. You

grow away from us as children do

that find the ways of their elders irksome and prefer

their own kind, own company.

From Coiled Roots is a collection by a poet with a full awareness of how, ‘out of the ice and the crystalline/and dangerous purity/of snow,’ can grow the strongest things – love and poetry. His wonderful translations of Finnish poet, Lassi Nummi, both complement and strengthen the themes of the collection.

    - Tom Pow -


This long overdue collection from Donald Adamson will be welcomed within Scotland, his native home, and in Finland, his adopted home. His work is thoughtful, perceptive and often wryly humorous whether he writes of life's roots or death or all the experiences between. There is a clarity, a sharpness of definition and we, the reader, know what it is, as he says, 'to be human'.

    - Liz Niven -


… individualistic, sincere, rhythmically subtle, holding and exploring a genuine vision of the world…

     - James McGonigal -



In this, his first full-length collection, Donald Adamson explores roots that push in different directions: upwards to the joys of creativity and the celebration of loved ones; downwards to history, sexuality, and ways of coping with human transience – ‘petals on a dark road’.

Children Writing Poems


They show you fish in the burn

and how to catch them


and a housing scheme

where neighbours are having a row.


They take you down the High Street

to the Spar and the Chippie.


They show you ghosts.


They show off. Sentences

pirouette on skateboards,

ride bikes no hands, do wheelies.


Next year, or the year after, will they be mere



of no emotion

and above all, no pain?

I want it to stay with them –


their seeing,

like a bike they might get for Christmas, and ride

a year or two but keep and one day

mount again, laughing,


wobbling down the road

on small wheels.






When our cat was dying

my son said Dad

can you write a poem,

one of your kind

that doesn’t rhyme?

This isn’t it.


Only regret

not to know

with the rainmaker

and the blesser of corn

where they fell to earth

and wait to be found,

the healing words, secret syllables.




Stories for a Summer’s Day


A warm breeze blows dust on the path

We drink coffee outside

and you tell me of old lovers,

the rake and the recluse

and the one who was crazy,

the one you liked best.


Your laughter floats

on coffee vapour skywards

while I’m left on the ground

to greet them as they enter

one by one, the natives of the place.


They come to me like multiples of myself,

smiling, hands held out –

yet when they open their mouths to speak

I hear nothing:

I had forgotten they were made

of dust and July,

coffee vapour

and the shimmer of summer.


They hover

like the mosquito that’s trying to land

on my bare arm,

not quite within swatting range,

further than a kiss, nearer than December.

adamson small photoCMYK 9781909357174


(in memoriam Adrian Mitchell)


Blessed are they

who hear the lies

and say aloud ‘they lie’ –


say that the torturer

is the one walking his dog

and pruning his roses

and that your ‘protectors’

will bind you, beat you, make you sit

all day in your own piss

then kick you aside

with a bullet in the head.


Blessed are they

who know this and can say

that there is love

and the hope of a better world,

and we can choose

for our delight, and even our deserving

to be human.




Wind Whispers

(for MM)


Some, perhaps the lucky ones,

live their whole life within

the place that they will always

call home.


The house, the plot of earth,

the apple tree with leaves

wet after rain –

always there, shining

like a silver coin, a universe

at whose circumference the fog

wreathes and rolls.


Not so for others, wandering through the mist

with no sight of those landscapes

that sleep returns them to.


But the mist may thin –

then let them pause awhile

as the sun beats down

and light falls on the faces

of those who travel with them


and let them see in friends, in those they love,

what they themselves created

in a strange land: no Eden, but a place

of scents and shade

and every day the telling

of a new tale, whispered in the wind.