Thom Nairn is one of the most distinguished Scottish poets. He was born in Perthshire. He has published several collections of poetry (including The Sand Garden, Poems For Bonnie and Josie and Chagall Takes A Fall) as well as innumerable critical articles and reviews in many Scottish magazines and newspapers. Over the years he has co-edited various magazines including The Scottish Literary Journal, Cencrastus and Understanding. In collaboration with D. Zervanou he has published many books of translations from contemporary Greek poetry and fiction. Most significantly perhaps The Complete Poems of George Vafopoulos published by Dionysia Press Ltd in 1999, which won an award for the best translation of contemporary Greek literature, in 1999. He has published in many literary magazines, as well being featured in a number of anthologies. 

He has held several posts as writer in residence and has run writers’ workshops between Athens and Edinburgh.

“THE SAND GARDEN …there is here a genuinely poetic and contemporary mind at work here” Dennis O’ Donnell

The opening of  Travelling Sideways is dramatic…

Opening my eyes suddenly from a shop

doorway, 500 ccs of bike, of metal and

plastic Is travelling sideways, in black

sparks its screaming

Hard and bad at the road

 Good old poetic devices like imagery, assonance and consonance hone the opening of Neurons.

Up among the hills, the steel stark spire

Of the radio mast

Crackles and sparks in the frost…”

Dennis O’ Donnell

About Thom Nairn’s and D. Zervanou’s translations Hayden Murphy wrote: ” The translator comes as a Trojan Horse into an original text, bristling with invading words. The interpreter comes within the text as an illuminator rescuing intent and meaning, easing the reader into understanding… In a splendid and evocative version the authors conclude The Portraits

Iron keys of death,


with their metallic smiles.

With my fingers I play on these

like a harp


hard, iron chords.

Trying to ascertain

on which bare nail

the hangings will stop.

On which bare nail

the portrait with no successor

will be hung.

… Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), in the company of Rilke, Pasternak and Montale, is one of those writers whose small poetic output is still hugely influential in the literary world. A wealthy recluse, he published only one book when alive, a private collection of 14 poems. In 1961 there appeared a Complete Poems,  a  slim collection full of fireworks. O” Grady knows and shares his worth with us

. …Elevated by Homer and Sappho, Greek poetry has leavened out with writers like Cavafy and Vafopoulos. 

Hayden Murphy

Poems for Bonnie and Josie (I) is perhaps best described as a troubling collection. It affords little comfort, with no means of securing oneself in space and time nor the solid walls of a definable past and imaginable future. Yet perhaps,  ultimately, it is the most valuable for what appears to be lacking: it is an undeniably honest assessment of one man’s present, despite his clear discomfort with it. It’s one worth thinking about.

Sarah Bryant


This is here and not here,

life at needle point,

consisting of decisions on

where the needle point ends,

where sharpness and rigidity

give way to infinity


Smooth as a crow carrying

Night on his back

The rain comes down over low hills

Still caught up in the sun.

The poems above are from Bonnie and Josie.


We could watch the rattled cavalcade


In and through

slippery mist

Far below.

Torches, the wandering truck lights

Snagging on harsh lands,

Mirrored from stark rock.

Here, direction becomes

An irrelevance

Only the bats and snakes



Our eyes above cloud,

Identified seas,

wandering sands,


Which could not exist:

And always

Half  way into something

Approaching night.

A heat and light too,


As present as ice,

Though its opposite.

This is a Dreamtime

Far from the terse, anarchic

Awareness of the ice.

Watching the rattled cavalcade

And no distant voices,

Some movements

Are a quiet business:

Just the torches,

The reflection of truck lights

On our collecting tins,

And knowing only the sound,

The far off bumping,

Of a loose

Dinosaur thigh bone

In the bottom of a trailer.

(I am indebted to Kerr Yule here, his tss, THE FELLOWSHIP OF MANKIND, provided the kick off point for this poem and I have adapted, appropriated and “borrowed” material directly from Kerr’s own collaging and constructions from a mass of diverse works).


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