Mistaken Identity

Every year at StAnza somebody mistakes me for Douglas Dunn. Personally, I don’t think we are all that similar in appearance, although there are, as the following poem shows, some amazing coincidences – both ex-librarians, both ex-jazz musicians, both poets, both born in 1942 etc.

For the record, I first met Douglas in 1966, and then lost touch. We met up again when I started to frequent St Andrews and the StAnza Festival. As far as I know, nobody has mistaken Douglas for me.

Sorry, I’m not Douglas Dunn

Each year in St Andrews some strangers,
sometimes acquaintances,
greet me as if I’m the famous poet.

I let them past the first sentence,
maybe the second, noting the hint
of uncertainty entering the eyes

And then I tell them no, it’s me,
a poet too, though less well known,
similar in some ways, in others not.

I’m not the lyric poet of Terry Street;
much as I admire him, praise his craft,
his generosity, humanity, warmth.

My words try to photograph the spirits of place,
the kami of wildness of mountain and sea,
and the reefs of the unconscious.

Our histories are different, but that’s invisible;
personalities not evident across a room.
How are we resembled? Let me count the ways:

In stature, neither would pass
for basketballers, and in girth
it’s clear that jogging’s off our menus.

Silver hair, yes, though mine is slightly darker,
white beards certainly, though mine
unshaped, definitely less kempt.

We both wear glasses, I guess
myopia’s a gene we share
but not taste in frames.

Born the same mid-War year,
you West, me East, so that ensures
our accents differ, so to speak.

Careers in libraries paralleled,
you in Larkin’s Hull
and me among the books on rocks and plants.

There’s no outward sign these days
in either of us, of far-gone
clarinetting times, and didn’t you play alto too?

It’s down, I’m sure, to similar outlines,
white, white beards and, I like to think
the kind eyes of two amiable men.

Colin Will


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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