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FROM COILED ROOTS
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
Publication 20th May 2013
216 x 138 mm
£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)
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,
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 –
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.
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,
and the shimmer of summer.
like the mosquito that’s trying to land
on my bare arm,
not quite within swatting range,
further than a kiss, nearer than December.
(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.
Some, perhaps the lucky ones,
live their whole life within
the place that they will always
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.