Ancient and Now

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right Ancient and Now by Colin Donati

This is the exercise every poet may once attempt: translate Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky into your own dialect. Or in Colin Donati’s case, a precision Scots that is as reminiscent of Henryson as it is of the spoken Scots we can hear each day.

Tags? Spirituality; history; language; nature. Zen sits well with Scots poetry too, sometimes in the traditional forms of haiku, and sometimes in the classical Zen ‘surprise’; as perfected in the poetry of Ancient and Now.

I have never noticed before the
brambles which hang over the drop
to the single railway track.

Couple it with a frank and pure philosophical investigation: 4.46am: What is east? Why is there direction? In this collection the poet Colin Donati reaches inside of nature; at one point in Stray, he becomes a dog; he leaves the poetry behind and finally inhabits the subject. The dog, a theme of the book, approaches the poet and his ‘one-summer brother’ on Yellowcraigs Sands, near Dirleston in East Lothian, and prompts more than Zen surprise; but metaphysical insight.

Included in Ancient and Now is a poem from Tweed Rivers (Luath Press/Platform Projects); it is applicable to this collection too in terms of what I have said above: Spirituality; history; language; nature. I have a strange sensation that the A5 form doesn’t do a good concrete poem justice; poems such as ‘labdien…’, which is a linguistic and natural history of the Tweed and Tweed tributaries in 40 words, should be broadcast on A1, minimum. Some concrete poems would benefit from being written on concrete, even.

Ancient and Now; it’s in the title. There are some longstanding features of life that we are simply not used to anymore, says Colin Donati. There is nature within us and around us, and Donati works hard to let us enjoy that fact for a few moments of time; it’s the job of his poetry and it does it well. Humans share the natural and poetic space with aniamls, water, plants, rocks and even the wordless urban; and nobody dominates. It's about, as Donati says, 'all that's real round us we don't connect with'; except in his case, via poetry.


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