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 has recently published translations of the Finnish poet Eeva Kilpi (A Landscape Blossoms within Me; Arc Publications 2014), and a collection of his own poems in an English-Romanian bilingual edition (Histories and Happenings; Horizont Literar Contemporan 2014)    


         He 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 prize-winner in several poetry competitions (Glasgow University/Radio Clyde; Northwords; Dumfries and Galloway Survivors Group; McCash Scots Poetry Prize 2014). 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.


     His previous Indigo Dreams collection is From Coiled Roots





Donald Adamson




ISBN 978-1-909357-75-4


Indigo Dreams Publishing




138 x 216mm


56 pages


£7.99 + P&P UK


PUB: August 2015










Fause Prophets

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

And I was unaware.

         (Thomas Hardy, 'The Darkling Thrush', 31 December 1900)


Leanin on a yett

at the stert o the twintieth century,

Hardy heard the blissfu sang o a mavis

an the thocht cam:

'Thon burd kens somethin Ah dinnae.'


But Hardy, ye micht say, hud his heid screwed oan

mair nor the burd,

thinkin o the nixt hunner year.


If Ah lean on the yett o the toon dump

Ah kin hear the hoodies

pickin ower the remnants o the century

(gey few mavises noo) –

burds o dule, o dark doom,

comfortless wi thir creakin-croakin soun.


An yit again

(Ah tell masel)

whithir bard or burd,

makar or mavis, scriever or scaffy-craw –

yi kin aye be wrang.





The Kennin o Burns


They thocht they kent ye, Burns,

in Edinbro, the gentrie -

you were their prodigy,


their ain plooman-poet


and the weemin ye beddit

and the yins ye lusted efter

were shair they kent ye.


Maybe nane o them did

unless the cuddy kent ye,

the yin ye rade

tae the coast, the coves and havens

whaur smugglers were hid oot.

Ye’d be mumblin tae it,

hummin a fiddle-tune,

giein voice tae the shiftin licht

and sheddae o yir thocht


as the sangs hovered aboot ye,

like wreaths o mist,

takin the form o every sonsie lass

ye’d ever kissed,

equippin themsels, listenin tae yir mind

like a doctor listenin wi a stethoscope,

each o them sayin

Ah ken ye, Rab –

this is the real you.



Everything came from somewhere else.

The rocks arrived as lava or by sea,

minches were shaped, tongued, grooved

in the waltz of continents,

words knocked spots off each other,

letters were hacked and notched

by Romans and Vikings,

merchants, monks and scribes.

Tribes travelled, said ‘Ach well’ and stayed.


And here, in a piece of earth

we stumbled on, whose cities, mountains, skies

inhabit us, we are –

a motley crew.




Whithorn Dig


Ninian's land,

here where the road peters out

in the Irish Sea

or begins.



breaking through the surface

mine our air.


Our guide, a local lad

in break-time mood

points where they lie:

‘Stanes and banes’ he says


and a skull laughs

with mouth agape.

Yet no sound comes


from it or us, pilgrims

in that century

or this, dumb before

a saint's armbone.




Solway Crossing


I thought of you that night as I drove

home and saw

Maryport on the far shore,

an amber centipede of light


so near! and yet      

on the other side of the firth,

a hundred miles by road,

barely ten for a boat or bird


to a partner once in shipwreck

and contraband. The lights

dipped behind the hill, the tide

of night rolled and I


was almost home, troubled

by an infinite Solway,

and lights no craft of mine would ever reach

by sea or land.

With Scotland as a background, these poems celebrate diversity. Using both English and Scots, they embrace the ‘glamourie’ – enchantment – to be found in ordinary lives and in poetry. They end with wild bagpipe-led devilry, reminiscent of Robert Burns’s Tam o’Shanter, and an urgent plea for tolerance.



‘Donald Adamson's poems are so firmly rooted in The Scottish landscape they appear almost self-seeded. The contours and cadences of language as natural as the distances, tongues and histories he describes.  A very fine collection from a poet at the height of his powers.’    

Chrys Salt  


‘... explores our several histories and voices with  confidence and panache… a poet who, having spent many years away from Scotland, sees its strengths and weaknesses with a clear but affectionate eye.’

Christine de Luca


30 March Adamson photo small colour cropped

Kilgramy Colliery speaks to my Great-Grandfather


You think you come for me, James,

as you crawl to the coal-face.


But I came for you

before you were born, I was there

when John and Susan made you.

I watched you grow in the womb


and you can be sure

I’ll still be here, dust-grey

in ruined lungs

at the end of your life’s seam.


When they’ve finished with me,

engines, winding-gear gone for scrap,

shafts flooded, spoil-heaps eroded

to humps of birch and bracken,

my veins will preserve

coal unmined, fires unlit


and this,

a sort of in memoriam, the impression

of something that grew once –

no flower, but fernlike,

a carboniferous leaf.