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Colin Will





Colin Will  was born in Edinburgh in 1942, and had the privilege of being one of Norman MacCaig’s pupils at Craiglockhart Primary School. He moved to West Lothian as a teenager, living in Bathgate and Mid Calder, and eventually settled in Dunbar in 2000. He was a scientific librarian and latterly a senior manager in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, before retiring in 2002. He is widely published in magazines and anthologies, and he has had seven poetry collections published, with an eighth coming from Red Squirrel Press in Autumn 2014. His most recent collection, The Propriety of Weeding, is available from Red Squirrel Press (




A short history of Xi’an

The Great Walls of Chang’an once divided
outsider from insider, barbarian from citizen.

No more. We stroll along the broad rampart
between parapets, peer down into smoggy city,

take grey photos with phones. A tall T’ang warrior
dawdles to the guardhouse, shiny breastplate

of moulded resin, helmet crowned with red nylon plumes.
In a side temple at the Great Goose Pagoda

I make three fearless bows to the Buddha. A little man
sidles in, looks both ways before kneeling.

He would have been all right, I believe, even if witnessed,
and he’s surely better for performing right actions.

Some varieties of experience must be undertaken,
not just observed. In the evening news comes

of a new feathered dinosaur from Liaoning Province,
but this is not a novelty. That is how birds became.


[From The Propriety of Weeding, copyright Colin Will]


Colin’s scientific background, mainly in in geology and botany, can’t help creeping into his poetry. Another major inspiration is his love of travel. He very much enjoys getting around Scotland, but he has also visited Japan, China, Tibet, USA, Madagascar, and many parts of Europe.


Madagascar birds


Cattle egrets flutter up

from the mud walls that separate

field from field. They are so white,

it’s as if clouds have come to earth.

Between the neat rows

of grassy-green rice in the watery silt,

fish, frogs and insects thrive.


A kingfisher sits on a post

at the edge of a paddy-field,

alert for fish stirred up

by the farmer’s rake.


On a tree is a hammerkop,

her nest a pile of sticks.


At Ranomafana a buzzard spirals

over the canopy, calls in a voice

just like the ones back home.


Birders riffle through a borrowed book

to name the rarer jewels of the sky,

while we look at the long-legged chickens

scratching in the dirt, wondering which ones

will be our supper.


[Published New Linear Perspectives, 2013]


He has had a long-standing interest in Japanese and Chinese poetic forms, and has many haiku published. His 2014 book, The Book of Ways, is a collection of haibun – poetic prose plus haiku. He continues to lead renga sessions throughout the UK, renga being a verse form written collectively by a group of poets, at a single place and time.


He is a past President of the Scottish Library Association, a past chair of the Scottish Poetry Library, and he currently chairs the Board of the StAnza Poetry Festival. He’s one of the team behind Dunbar’s CoastWord Festival.


Colin runs the pamphlet publisher Calder Wood Press ( , which specialises in poetry.


In his later years he has revived his interest in playing jazz, and now accompanies poetry readings on a variety of saxophones.



He blogs as Sunny Dunny (




All poems on this page are the copyright © of Colin Will











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