Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

"Don Paterson" by Natalie Pollard (ed) (Edinburgh University Press, 2014)

8 essays and 2 interviews about a writer whose theoretical views (once moderated by Attridge et al) I share. I have a feeling I might have forgotten that I learnt those view from him in the first place. I suspect that I also share his opinions on "immanent meaning" and various more mundane poetry issues too - publishing, reader-friendly poetry, etc.

Natalie Pollard

  • "What becomes evident throughout Paterson's oeuvre is a sense of personal and professional self-dividedness. Lack of a clear consensus of self, which takes numerous forms, circles around this protean contemporary poet-figure, who is called to mediate between the roles of scholar, editor, creative-writing lecturer, competition-winner and prize-giver, commissioned lyricist, media pundit, and poet-at-public-reading", p.4

Derek Attridge

  • "He is scathing about poetry workshops; good poems arise only from an 'urgent impulse in the mind of the poet'", p.22
  • "Paterson's larger claim is that the operation of the phonestheme is not confined to specific effects of individual words but is a principle that underlies poetry", p.23
  • "He has never made a secret of his strong opposition to what he terms 'postmodern poetry'", p.23
  • "Most of my disagreements with Paterson stem from his tendency to overstate whatever claim he is making and his habit of treating a particular variety of the lyric poem - one that he has made his own - as if it were the only kind of poem that exists or should exist (a slightly worrying bent, given his status and influence in the contemporary poetry world)", p.32

Michael O'Neill

  • "With irony, rhythmic bravura and word-play as his weapons and sometimes shield, he is especially drawn to subjects associated with existentialism and negative theology: the apparent absence of immanent meaning, the fated vanishing of the world, and yet also the continual sense of virtual possibilities, imagined alternatives", p.61
  • "One crucial form that 'nothing' and 'nothingness' take in Paterson's poetry is absence. Other forms of 'nothing', often entwining round one another, include a yearning after negative transcendence, a measured delight in the possibilities of uncertainty, a confrontation with non-meaning, and the question of the relationship between the 'nothings' of imagination and a reality detected as lying beyond the scope of language, even as it is language that, paradoxically, allows us to sense what may lie beyond itself", p.61
  • "in Rain, Robert Potts discovered 'two Petersons, each embarrassed by and ashamed of the other: the mystical poet-philosopher, essaying gnomic profundities; and the proudly self-loathing nihilist, delivering the belittling gags and jibes'", p.69

Don Paterson

  • "there's a lyric default, a kind of normative shift which instinctively moves the language closer to music. Music requires an increase in vowel-length so that notes can be sustained, and the parallel organisation of its distinct sounds. This results in a tendency for poetic speech to a) pattern its consonantal sounds and b) increase the incidence of long vowels", p.77
  • "My bosses know that a successful poetry list is one of the most economical ways to sustain the literary cachet of the imprint, mainly through the disproportionate amount of broadsheet exposure it gets", p.146
  • "The workshop culture and creative writing machine have produced an epidemic of surface competence", p.147

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tim

    I appreciate Don Paterson's poetry but I would be extremely hard-pressed to write an essay about it. I tend to view Paterson and Armitage as the Don Lennon and Simon McCartney of contemporary poetry. (The dour Don and the crowd-pleasing Simon.) At the moment I am reading and enjoying the latter's 'Walking Away'.

    Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish