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A Refreshing Surprise
on 30 March 2010
In rain, Don Paterson presents us with an extraordinary collection of poems. Some of the poems depict people doing ordinary things such as in "The Swing" and "Two Trees". Some of the poems such as "The Circle" and "Correctives" appear very personal as Paterson communicates a close relationship with a boy who appears to be his son. And in some of the poems the word dream recurs frequently bringing into focus, as it were, the sharp contrast between things as they are and things dreamt of. Paterson also pays homage to a number of past great poets such as Li Po, Salvator Quasimodo, Antonio Machado and Cesar Vallejo.
Paterson is a very good technician. He uses a fairly wide range of form to deliver his subject. He is equally adept with managing rhyming couplets and presenting interesting schemes of imperfect rhymes. In the main he avoids blank verses in stead working at presenting the sonnet almost in a new guise as in the "Landscape" and "Miguel". His mastery of form and subject can be seen in the poem "Renku: My last Thirty-Five Deaths". Here Paterson appears to contrast the every day here and now reality with something more profound and beyond our grasp. And he explores this contrast between reality and the unknown by alternating rhyming couplets with triplet verses.
He certainly displays great control over the form in which he writes. Take my favourite poem from the collection - namely "The Day". In this poem, the stanzas take the forms of sextants in which Paterson manages to maintain a scheme where the second and penultimate lines rhyme. But more interestingly as a third person narrates the experience of old age and the reflections of two lovers, Paterson manages to shift the tone between the narrator and the two people who enter upon a dialogue brilliantly. This gives profound effect to a message about love, life and the question what is life all about.
There are some lively and highly imaginative metaphor and simile. Paterson begins a poem entitled "Parallax" thus: "The moon lay silent on the sea/as on a polished shelf". In the context of the poem, the language of these two lines is quite simply a pleasure to read.
This is a very good collection of poems ranging from the playful, the obscure to the profound. I found them thought provoking. Just when I thought I had grasped the meaning of a given poem, I found that very meaning illusive and evasive. This is the stuff of which good poetry is made - do read the collection.