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101 Sonnets Paperback – 1 Mar 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571278736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571278732
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

101 Sonnets is a collection of classic sonnets introduced by Don Paterson, one of Britain's foremost contemporary poets.

About the Author

Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. He is the author of Nil Nil (1993), God's Gift to Women (1997) - winner of both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize - and Landing Light (2003), which won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry. Rain, his most recent collection, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2009, the same year that he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. Find out more about Don Paterson at www.donpaterson.com.


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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
"Poets write sonnets because it makes poems easier to write. Readers read them because it makes their lives easier to bear"
That's how Don Paterson concludes his crash course on the sonnet which forms the introduction to this little jewel box of a book. Master of the aphorism, he carries his elegantly succinct style into the notes on each one, deftly throwing open even the least inviting and initially inaccessible poems of the collection.
There are many classics here, from all the undisputed experts. Even Shakespeare is allowed only one entry though, leaving plenty of room for newer and less familiar writers. But why do the editors of these collections never feel able to slip in one of their own works? An acclaimed sonneteer himself, Don Paterson is ideal as editor but surely he should qualify as one of the 101 too?
You don't need to know one end of a sonnet from another to get a lot out of this collection. If he'd called it 101 poems with rather a pleasing shape, which each takes up about two thirds of a small page, and most of which will kick you in the stomach, I'd still have carried the book around for weeks, and would still be reaching for it when heading for the bus stop. I'm not sure it's made my life easier to bear, but it's certainly made an English February easier to endure.
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Format: Paperback
just the introduction is worth buying the book for - a masterclass in sonnet writing; followed by an eclectic collection of sonnets and near-sonnets through the ages. Fabulous. The sections at the back - the descriptions of the sonnets themselves; and the descriptions of the poets - are fascinating and helpful.
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If you love poetry you will adore this book. It begins with an introduction which explains the sonnet form as being fourteen lines - the optimum at which human attention is easily held, and also goes into some of the forms varied incarnations and history. But a poem can be a sonnet with thirteen lines too - perfectly properly. Poetry is extremely flexible as it has had to be in order to service human nature. These damned poets can scarcely make their minds up about anything to do with definition. But it doesn't matter. Opening with Robert Frost's The Silken Tent, which is perhaps sublime and delicate beyond any other poem here, this collection has a large number of other delights.

The thing with poetry is that you cannot get enough, once hooked. There are the usual suspects: Wordsworth's The world is too much with us, John Donne's Batter my heart three-personed God, William Blake's To the evening star, and Carol Ann Duffy's Prayer along with Simon Armitage's Poem, and W B Yeats' Leda and the Swan. Here is one I hadn't come across before and especially loved, by Robert Hayden: Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labour in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was seduced into buying this delicious little book by Eileen Shaw's review - she helpfully gives a full example of one of the probably less well known sonnets, and then (in comments, in reply to a question,) gives another

So if you want examples of some pretty damn stunning sonnets which may not be in your existing poetry collections - read her review for a couple of tasty samples.

The foreword to this collection is vivid and muscular, the least dry explanation of the evolution of the sonnet out there. Paterson's own visceral response to poetry is palpable and infectious.

The sonnets are ordered not by alphabetical author progressions, or by date; instead there is almost the sense of each sonnet, leading onto the next as part of a larger ordering of themes, so that the subject matters of the poems slowly progress - sonnets devoted to sexual love and praise of the beloved, sonnets which are almost physically sensuous in their devotion to praising the divine (nice juxtapositions of sonnets lingeringly describing kissing the beloved, to the first poem in 'the divine' series, a sonnet by Wilfred Owen describing kissing the Cross. And on.

This very subtle, personal but unexplained, un spelt out (by Paterson) ordering of the sonnets is itself a delight and revelation, so that one can have a very modern sonnet cheek by jowl with one of the very well known ones, and the progression of subject and neighbouring sonnets slightly change the way one reads the familiar sonnet - it becomes 'as though for the first time' once more

As another reviewer also notes, the 5 or 6 line notes on each sonnet right at the end of the book are excellent and illuminating - but utterly unobtrusive.
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