Introducing the March 2009 Readers – 3. Colin Donati

Colin Donati is a poet and musician living in Edinburgh. His main collection to date is Rock is Water, or a History of the Theories of Rain (Kettillonia, 2003). As a poet he has also collaborated with artist Pauline Burbidge for the book Tweed Rivers (Luath/Platform 2005) and with composer Robin Mason on the Benchtours musical theatre production Yellow House (debut performance, Brunton Theatre, 2007). In 2007 he received major SAC support to complete a translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment into Scots, and in December 2008 a poster of his Scots translation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was presented to the First Minister by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary. He is currently preparing a collection of poetry for Sand/Red Squirrel Press.

Predictable Experience

I am like that sad animal the gibbon in the zoo
dipping its fingers in its own sex and sniffing them
lain over a bale on its back, flat amongst tyres in its box,
lit by white bulbs on a drizzly day and gazed at
from behind thick plate glass in the crowded walk-way
by the smooth-faced murmurous-tongued cousins there
who pass in file hour upon hour and who I do my utmost
to pretend are harmless –

with my straw, two ramps, some rope and a hatch to the outdoors,
I am like it, yes – and why? Is it because I’m not sure
that I care for my numen and I’m lonely and I make
shadow-shows that show my own kind terrorised
by sixty-foot gorillas or voracious escaped dinosaurs
and my highest dream is to lie with a partner
in the stink or our own bed? Can this be true?
Can this really be true? Can the mind heed
no higher goal?

The mind protests its shabby hopes against better visions
through establishment of sure connections such as
we are not animals when we engage in sex –
our experience altogether more elevated and unique
than anything the gibbon undergoes with mates –
I have a salary, can drive a car, understand
the layout of a supermarket, answer phones

– from ROCK IS WATER or A History of the Theories of Rain, and

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