Breath of Dragons, Andy AllanFull colour cover, purple indigo stripe along the very bottom plus publisher logo in white The pictures shows a crag part covered with with pines, and above it a sky thick with swirling white cloud. The book title, justified left, is in a large white stylised font in the bottom quarter, above the trees. It breaks Breath of / Dragons. The author's name is in the clouds top right and is green and lower case, picking up the green of the trees in the white cloud.

Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015     £6.00

An absence of adjectives

This is one of those little pamphlets that boasts a spine: effectively a thin book. Very nice to handle and read.

Andy Allan is a strongly descriptive writer – visually descriptive – and the first thing that caught my attention was the frequent occurrence of colour words. In the opening poem, ‘tweed-green sea’, the ‘blurred blue haze’ of the the view, the ‘dark speck’ of an eagle circling. In ‘Why America?’, there are ‘white boulders and a ‘silvered’ footbridge ‘clad in blue-green lichen’ casting a ‘dark shadow’ before we see a person ‘plucking the yellow flowers’. 

And yet I began to feel I was noticing adjectives disproportionately, because of their profusion. But when it works, it really works. I loved ‘Wisdom’ which uses colour beautifully in the second stanza as a small boy watches his father dig potatoes:

I pounced on the new tatties and
carefully dropped each purple prize
with the clunk of success,
into a white, chipped, enamel bowl
then took them in to Mam. 

A wry twist comes in the next stanza when the boy learns at school how the Earth revolves – so fast that no one can see it. He goes back to the garden watching and waiting for the garden soil to do just that. He finds the teacher ‘was right’:

I never saw the earth move yet,
but I often wondered why
weeds didn’t fall out
while it was churning over.

In these lines, I could see him in my mind’s eye with absolute clarity, without one describing word. Andy Allan is a dab hand with an expert verb, and often a beautifully turned noun. You do not need many adjectives when you can write like this:

Anticipation whistles on the wind,
the freshness of excitement’s edge.

Helena Nelson