GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
BREATH OF DRAGONS
Andy Allan is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and has a background in education. He is a native of Strathspey, where his childhood and youth were spent roaming moorland, forests, glens and hills. At present, he lives on the edge of the great forest of Culbin, which stretches along the shore of the Moray Firth to the east of Nairn.
His outlook on life reflects his Highland upbringing and much of his inspiration is drawn from the highland landscape, the natural world and Celtic myth.
Andy’s poetry has been widely published in magazines such as Reach Poetry, Poetry Cornwall, The Dawntreader, Causeway/Cabhsair, The Larcenist, Poetry Scotland and Sarasvati. His work is also featured in the anthologies: ‘Living Poetry,’ ‘The Wait’ and the recent ‘Words in the Landscape.’
In 2014 Andy participated in a growing number of poetry-readings including reading at the annual poetry festival organised by Poetry Scotland in Callander, reading at Moniack Mhor (Scotland’s writers’ centre), reading at the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival and he was the November ‘Bard in the Bookshop,’ a series of monthly poetry-reading events organised in Nairn bookshop, each featuring a different poet. He was invited to read at two separate book-launches for friends. Andy has also been interviewed and asked to read some of his poems on local radio. In addition his poetry features (online) in, ‘The Stanza Poetry Map of Scotland.’
Andy is a member of ‘forWords’, the well-known Forres writers’ group. ForWords has been a very supportive and successful vehicle for nurturing and developing a number of writers to published success in recent years.
“Breath of Dragons,” is his first poetry pamphlet.
Breath of Dragons
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: June 2015
Breath of Dragons
The pumping throb of currents
races over rugged seas
of rank, dank heather.
Powerful, probing storms
swirl and rush,
grazing grey crags
where lurking eagles slide.
Moist and tantalizing fragrances
swirl beneath brooding skies,
caressing russet hill-sides.
The breaths of western dragons
swoop and soar;
mountain flanks teased,
lashed with life’s moist kisses.
The Pool of All Knowledge
Like the tired shadows of day’s end
his need-to-know hangs.
A tumbled grey dyke,
lichen-stained with greeny-blue,
lies desolate among dark ranks of nettles.
The burbling burn slaps mossy stone,
its song, a long soft murmur.
In flickering thick, green light,
the Willow loiters,
hunched on his root-riddled bank.
Above the peat-stained pool
where knowledge lies,
he broods in the patient shade,
his bobbing fingers knocking
on a window of liquid sepia.
Rippling circles widen,
encroach on a glistening rink
where insects flit and skate.
Swallows skim the mirrored surface,
seething clouds of midges bustle
in muggy shadow.
Old Willow waits,
patience on his shoulder,
desire blackens his mind.
Silver flickers dart in still, dim depths.
The pool’s heart is shattered
in a flash of feathery blue.
The salmon, knowing all there is,
In Celtic mythology, the salmon was the keeper of all knowledge; the willow was identified with the dark spirit of Wisdom.
After the Summer Rain
Sooty, black-stained buildings
bathed in smoke’s pungent tang,
rouse reminders of childhood
and a grimy world, unsullied.
Rafts of yellow pine-needles
sweep across slick paving
in a riot of ripples.
Freshness drips from
crisp green leaves,
daze and dazzle.
Spouts of water gurgle
from gaps in rotten masonry,
reflections pour from puddles,
drowning the murky present.
Aromas tease through
innocent days of damp delight,
a freedom to take risks,
drizzle dribbling on sweaty skin,
wet hair plastered on contentment.
An Iolair Mhòr (The Great Eagle)
‘Coh-bac, coh-bac, coh-bac, coh-bac.’
Startled grouse voice their alarm
on the high path up over Lag Buidhe.
Swooping down the hillside,
they brush the ragged slopes
awash with racing cloud-shadows.
Wind-built waves of heather sweep
across a tweed-green sea.
North beyond the Spey,
over forested hills and moors,
the distant lowlands of the Laich
lie under a blurred blue haze.
A dark speck spirals high in icy skies
as I rest my weary legs to watch and reminisce.
‘Iolair Mhòr your days of greatness have gone,
Your clan is small, the world has turned.’
Oidhreagain clings tightly to the ground,
its presence reminding me that even now
there are still things I can only name in Gaelic.
Rising, breathing deeply, I crest the shoulder,
raise my eyes to the great dark silhouette.
‘Oh Iolair Mhòr, our day is done,
torn away with the tattered leaves of history.
Chaos laps at our feet, washing ever-higher,
drowning the memories.’
I shiver under passing clouds as
the distant eagle wheels to leave and
two heather-skimmers glide down into oblivion
repeating their timeless call;
‘Coh-bac, coh-bac, coh-bac, coh-bac.’
Oidhreagain is Scots Gaelic for cloudberries.
Summer sparkled in Glenfiddich.
You were an insolent ten,
with a laugh that skipped
through breeze-rippled alders,
warm winds caressing the air.
Pale hair-strands floated, free,
danced to the river’s drone.
It’s pibroch smooth in memory,
water-washed as the round,
white boulders you grew among.
The footbridge, wooden, silvered,
clad in blue-green lichen,
cast a dark shadow over the gurgling ford.
You knelt in the sun’s sharp dazzle,
plucking the yellow flowers with care.
Your scowl captured in a shutter-click.
‘Breath of Dragons’ features Scotland’s highland landscape, those who live there and aspects of the natural world. The poetry also touches on the lives, the myths and the legends pertaining to those who have lived in that landscape in the past ages, those who have walked the hills and the wildwood before us.
“Andy Allan’s poetry does what good poetry should do: it involves itself in those two landscapes, the natural world and humanity. I think the reason his poetry is popular is because it acts both as a window and a mirror, so that enjoying the clarity and honesty of his words, we discover fresh truths about the world we inhabit and ourselves.”
“Andy Allan’s poems are intense and deep as the landscape they inhabit, full of brooding atmospheres and sweeping winds. They celebrate myth, legend and the wild beauty of the mountains, glens and rivers that root this poet to Scotland.” Eileen Carney Hulme
“Andy Allan’s poems about the Scottish Highlands are vivid and evocative. I loved, especially,
The Pool of All Knowledge.”
Waiting for a New Day’s Dawn
Tendrils of woodbine creep into light,
their rippling search,
sifting the leaves of book,
the pages of story.
No guardians from elder days
remain to guide saplings
through their growth decades,
none have survived
to teach and protect them
as they struggle to awareness.
Witnesses with little hope
ponder the ancient shaman’s tales,
memories encoded in soft rings,
in the pathways of fungi-filament
that form the forest’s heart and soul:
such delicate, fragile strands,
injured beyond bearing,
mangled, ripped and torn,
by axe and fire and plough.
Deep-rooted survivors stand and watch,
waiting for a change in the wind.
Ethereal spirits waft
among barren boughs,
weaving through mystery,
slipping between gnarled fingers,
in dim and dwindling light.
Bathed in sun’s red descent,
leaves tumble through branches,
jaundiced and black-spotted,
drifting to the vast cathedral floor
where hungry foragers scrape.
Slithering through vaulted silence,
veiled presences lurk,
obscure and unmentionable,
inhuman eyes roving, probing,
intelligent, consuming, dark.
More than breeze as dank air moves,
a pigeon flaps alarm,
its feathered clatter freezing time,
merging shadows splinter
and disappear with ease.