Don Paterson is a youngish Scottish poet with two fine collections to his name. Now he's followed up those successes with The Eyes
, something of a surprise: a "creative translation" of the favourite poems of turn-of-the-19th-century Spanish writer Antonio Machado.
This is not some deliberately obscure and recondite exercise in literary antiquarianism. To judge by Paterson's diligent and skilful adaptations Machado was a gifted lyricist and an observant imagist. Moreover, Machado's peculiar subject matter--the fate and place of Spanish identity in a post-imperial world--has a certain undeniable resonance for Brits facing up to European integration and UK devolution.
Not that Paterson's Machado is ever heavy, or portentous. Most of the poems are short and sweet, or short and bittersweet; some are positively Haiku-esque in their poignant, wistful brevity. This is from Proverbs: "The Sun in Aries; my window / open to the cold air ... listen / the dusk has awoken the river". And this is from New Songs: "Beside the flowering mountain / the ocean's uproar / Salt grains in the honeycomb".
Perhaps the best of the poems is the title song, The Eyes, which combines a gift for lyrical one-liners (memory like a "great block of gold") with a subtle narrative thrust; the whole being greater than the sum of its already satisfying parts.
Shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award, alongside worlds by such luminaries as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. If Paterson's book is not perhaps quite substantial or punchy enough to outrank such highfalutin opponents, it is, nonetheless, a very agreeable book or verse--and, given Machado's relative obscurity, a very commendable and intriguing exercise in "poet-to-poet" resuscitation. --Sean Thomas
About the Author
Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. He is the author of Nil Nil
(1993), winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; 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. He has also published versions of Antonio Machado (The Eyes
, 1999) and Rainer Maria Rilke (Orpheus
, 2006), as well as two collections of aphorisms. His Selected Poems
appeared in 2012.