Alastair Reid’s phrase “atlas of his curiosities” is a useful key to Allan Crosbie. He is a traveller – both literally and in the world of conscience (he writes of the irony of the fact that he was finishing an Master’s Degree in Peace Studies in the USA during the first Gulf War). There are poems here about peace and war – particularly in Central America where Allan spent a year travelling and working. There are also poems about intimacy and relationship, as well as poems that commentate Scotland and being Scottish. There’s a lot of great writing coming out of Scotland these days, and he’s part of that energy flow. There are also several poems about the Quaker movement – one of which, ‘From Martha Simmonds Journal’, ends,
But when I know my portion
of the world, or find that bit of broken light
in me, I’ll be drops of water, then the rainbow
dreaming its return
This is, says Douglas Dunn, “busily sentient poetry”. It makes you think, see, feel; inspires you to journey towards clarity of understanding.
I drive stiffly through the rain to Auchterarder
with you beside me reading everything you can
about the First World War. Your right hand
rests on my left thigh, dips as I change gear
or leaves a sudden coolness there
on the muscle when you turn a page.
I wince and stick my belly out in pain.
The wipers sweep and click like metronomes
until I kill the engine and leave them frozen,
two blackened skulls of herons, or bayonets
fixed parallel in the middle of the glass.
You stay there reading as the windows mist
and the drips fall in bunches from the oak
I’ve parked under and I limp away
into a room where a skeleton hangs by the fire.
The doctor digs his fingers in my knotted flesh.
The sound of my joints popping is like distant gunfire
or splashes tapping on a metal roof.
Later, when I slide into the seat beside you,
I feel like a stone, coaxed across a frozen loch,
that shoulders through to kiss its lonely twin.
Allan Crosbie was born in Bermuda, but grew up in Scotland. After graduating from St. Andrew’s University, he completed a Masters in Peace Studies at Notre Dame University in the USA during the first Gulf War. He has traveled throughout Central America, including a year working with a community of repatriated refugees in El Salvador and a short spell for the UN Truth Commission in that country. He now teaches English in Edinburgh and lives with his wife Alison in Portobello.
‘This poet has a great gift for showing the everyday can also be threatening and disturbing… fine angry poems that carry the reader with them and promise much.’
‘Crosbie’s work is sure-footed as well as diverse. His is a poetry of both actual and imaginative wanderlust, formally varied and as international as it is Scottish.’
‘Allan Crosbie’s collection is something of a kaleidoscope. In their shifting perceptions and their many manners, his poems add up to a small atlas of his curiosities. He travels well.’
(The Rialto First Collection Series 2006)