Hello, Stranger Poems

Unrequited by John Atkinson

26 September 2021

John Atkinson is a hidden gem in Wigtownshire. One of the Beltie Poets, attending regular meetings at the eclectic Beltie Books shop in Wigtown, John’s poetry is simultaneously tough and tender, sometimes knotted sometimes free and cascading like water. He’s a good polemicist but a fine lyrical poet, also. Here he is in his own words:

‘I was born on a farm in North Yorkshire in 1950 and grew up with a close affinity to the land and to nature. In my late teenage years two significant things happened: the first was that we left the farm, the second was that I discovered the poems of Dylan Thomas. I found myself moved to the core by the magic of his lyrical reminiscences of youth, spent on his uncle’s farm in South Wales. Later I was equally moved by Ted Hughes, and later still by Seamus Heaney, both poets concerned with nature and their recollections of being part of it; fitting into something bigger than one’s self, and finding ways to capture that mystery in words.’

John published a fine group of his poems in a small publication for sale in Beltie Books. Here he is at his simple elegiac best, in a poem of regret and loss.


I first met love by still waters, knew her

before I saw her face.

But she flew

like a startled bird that arrested my senses

and caught in the space of a wing-beat

the flow of time.

Rivers of regret surge between lives.

I should have known

meandering banks can never meet. I heard

a lament of raindrops

weep her liquid name, burned

for that cool water on my deserted skin.

The series is curated by Hugh McMillan, poet and writer, Ambassador for the Scottish Poetry Library in 2020 and Editor of its anthology ‘Best Scottish Poems’ for 2021.