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A Deletion

Don Paterson, 8 May 1997

... Ruth, I can’t believe none of them knew; on the other hand, it’d only take a few to -ectomise it from the lexicon – and what brave soul’d report that it had gone? (Lady: ‘I was pleased to note the lack of filthy words in your most admirable work.’ Dr Johnson: ‘Yes, indeed Madame; I’m pleased you took the time to hunt for them.’) More likely, surely, that they would have missed that selfish little organ off the list in pure spite: let us try to picture him, the lovelorn wretch in the scriptorium, sobbing in bed, wanking in the cloisters, all his sour hours, days and weeks spent counting his disappointments like a paternoster, or like the fading optimist, his bar-bill mounting with the broken shells of all his pearlless oysters ...

St Bride: Sea-Mail

Don Paterson, 19 February 1998

... Now they have gone we are sunk, believe me. Their scentless oil, so volatile it only took one stray breath on its skin to set it up – it was our sole export, our currency and catholicon. There was a gland below each wing, a duct four inches or so down the throat; though it was tiresome milking them by hand given the rumour of their infinite supply, and the blunt fact of our demand ...

Two Poems

Don Paterson, 15 November 2001

... The Sea at Brighton To move through your half-million furnished hours as that gull sails through the derelict tea rooms of the West Pier; to know its shadowed realm as a blink, a second’s darkening of the course … The bird heads for the Palace, then skites over its blank flags, whitewashed domes and campaniles, vanishes. Below, the shies and stalls are locked, the gypsies off to bank the silver; the ghosts have left the ghost train, and are gone from every pebble, beach-hut, dog and kite in the blanket absolution of the light of a November forenoon ...
... The Kill Far-conquering man . . . You’ve written, since you first turned hunter, many a level new death-rule of trap or net. Though I know the strip of sail they hung into the caverns of the Karst, so softly, like the flag of peace, or ceasefire . . . Then, from the cave-mouth, a boy gave it a jerk and tumbling dayward out of the cave-dark came a handful of pale doves ...

Four Poems

Don Paterson, 30 July 2015

... A Powercut This is what we’ve come to, this damn lift, this blackout, this airlock, this voiceless stop, this empty set, this storm cave, this dead drop, this deaf nut, this dumb waiter, this blind drift, this Necker cube, this coalshed, this Swiss bank, this iron lung, this hide, this diving bell, this pseudocoma, priesthole, holding cell, this meatlocker, this isolation tank, this, since I’m too lazy for the stairs in this airless guesthouse in the Dales, so went for this jackscrew for the old or lame or spent for this two-second trip between two floors, this this-way-up box to sweat and say my prayers in, this six-foot night, this theatre of doors: this ...

Letter to the Twins

Don Paterson, 17 April 2003

... For it is said, they went to school at Gabii, and were well instructed in letters, and other accomplishments befitting their birth. And they were called Romulus and Remus (from ‘ruma’, the dug), as we had before, because they were found sucking the wolf. Plutarch, Parallel Lives Dear sons – for I am not, as you believed, your uncle – forgive me now my dereliction ...

Two Poems

Don Paterson, 21 August 2003

... The Hunt By the time he met his death I’d counted off twelve years and in the crossed and harrowed path could read my whole career the nights of circling alone in corridors of earth the days like paler nights, my lodestone dying to the north while I lived by what uncertain meat left from his repast and what rainwater and bitter light could worm in through the crust And in that time my axe had swung no closer to his neck than the echo of his sullen tongue or the hot smell of his wake Though now and then I’d find a scrap of gold thread in the dirt and once, a corner of the map she’d sewn into my shirt I had no use for either here being so long deranged by the tortuous familiar as once I’d been the strange Then one day near the heart, making a break in my patrol I drained my flask and leant my aching back against the wall Across the way I saw a gap ...

The Bathysphere

Don Paterson, 28 May 2009

... What would you want with that? They said, and fairly, when the auctioneer’s van dumped it in the drive. It was far worse than they knew. One absent bidder had ruined me for the thing, the quartz was cracked and I’d lied about it being a prototype; none survived, thanks to the famous flaw that left them on the seabed with their pilots smeared all over their one wall ...


Don Paterson, 3 February 2005

... Imagining the worst is no talisman against it. * My time here has afforded me no enlightenment; though my night-vision has improved enormously. In fact it seems to have evolved as if it were certain of its future indispensability. * Ego-surfing again, four months since I last dared: the hit-count tripled, nearly all of them namechecks by brand-new enemies, or new recruits to the army of doppelgängers: champion disco-dancers, Alaskan Romanticists, men who teach juggling, fuck donkeys, or put miniature combine harvesters in bottles ...

God’s Gift to Women

Don Paterson, 6 March 1997

... The man seems to be under the impression he is God’s gift to womankind,’ said Arthur. Cradling the enormous, rancid bunch of stock he had brought her, Mary reflected that the Holy Father could no more be depended upon to make an appropriate donation than any other representative of Hit sex. G.K. Chesterton, ‘Gabriel Gale and the Pearl Necklace’ Dundee, and the Magdalen Green ...


Lavinia Greenlaw, 3 August 1995

... For Don Paterson He preferred his glass eye to be of itself, vitreous not ocular or even optically convincing. Without pupil or iris, allowed to risk its stubbornly fluid nature, the blue held everything. It liquefied in candlelight and clouded over in winter. Once, at the opera, an aria built wave upon wave of sound, higher and closer till it struck the resonant frequency of blue glass and the molecules of his eye oscillated into a thousand flowers ...

Deep Down in the Trash

Robert Crawford, 21 August 1997

God’s Gift to Women 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 9780571177622
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... of the most talented Scottish writers of the new generation. Like A.L. Kennedy and W.N. Herbert, Don Paterson is a Dundonian, and Dundee haunts much of his poetry. The verse is formed with a beautiful precision, yet also has an acrid edge. The title of the volume is qualified by irony, but it remains a vaunt. ...

Other Ways to Leave the Room

Michael Wood: Antonio Machado, 25 November 1999

The Eyes: A Version of Antonio Machado 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 60 pp., £7.99, October 1999, 0 571 20055 9
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... What we get in its name is a pale substitute, a distant echo of a lost original. ‘A poem,’ Don Paterson says in his afterword to The Eyes, ‘can no more be translated than a piece of music.’ Poets have only to think of the lines ‘in which they take most pride ... to realise they could not possibly find even their roughest equivalents in ...

So Much More Handsome

Matthew Reynolds: Don Paterson, 4 March 2004

Landing Light 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 84 pp., £12.99, September 2003, 0 571 21993 4
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... You might expect a landing light to be bright, a herald of safe arrival, but the light Don Paterson had most in mind when naming his new collection is weaker and less sure. ‘The Landing’ (one of two poems echoing the title) locates its protagonist halfway up the stairs, between the ‘complex upper light’ and ‘the darker flight/that fell back to the dead ...

Degree of Famousness etc

Peter Howarth: Don Paterson, 21 March 2013

Selected Poems 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 169 pp., £14.99, May 2012, 978 0 571 28178 7
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... A few years back, Don Paterson was warning everyone that contemporary British poetry was under threat. Not from the usual enemies, philistines in government or chain bookshops, but from two groups of poets: populists and elitists. According to his 2004 anthology, New British Poetry, populists are well-intentioned souls who bring poetry to factories, schools or prisons, ‘via some patronising mediation, some strategy intended to make it “easier”: a visit from a performance poet, or a themed workshop, or a poster campaign with the dumbest, shortest poem the committee can find, set in 50-point bold ...

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