Books Magazine

40 Sonnets by Don Paterson

By Pamelascott

This new collection from Don Paterson, his first since the Forward prize-winning Rain in 2009, is a series of forty sonnets. Some take a more traditional form, some are highly experimental, but what these poems share is a lyrical intelligence and musical gift that has been visible in his work since his first book of poems, Nil Nil, in 1993.

Addressed to children, friends and enemies, the living and the dead, musicians, poets and dogs, these poems display an ambition in their scope and tonal range matched by the breadth of their concerns. Here, voices call home from the blackout and the airlock, the storm cave and the séance, the coalshed, the war, the ringroad, the forest and the sea. These are voices frustrated by distance, by shot glass and bar rail, by the dark, leaving the 'sound that fades up from the hiss, / like a glass some random downdraught had set ringing, / now full of its only note, its lonely call . . .'

In 40 Poems Paterson returns to some of his central themes - contradiction and strangeness, tension and transformation, the dream world, and the divided self - in some of the most powerful and formally assured poems he has written to date. This is a rich and accomplished new work from one of the foremost poets writing in English today.


[I must quit sleeping in the afternoon. I do it for my heart / but all too soon / my heart has called it off. It does not love me (HERE)]


(Faber & Faber, 1 September 2015, ebook, 56 pages, borrowed from my library)



This is my first time reading the poet.

I really enjoyed this collection. Sonnets are now my favourite type of poem. I've always considered them old-fashioned and high-brow. Paterson went some way towards changing my mind.

I particularly enjoyed The Air, The Six, A Powercut, Lacrima, A Vow and Seven Questions about the Journey.

What struck me about this collection is how versatile and diverse the sonnets were, in both form and subject. I always had this idea of what a sonnet should look and read like and Paterson has cleverly cleaved this through the middle.

Sonnets Paterson

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