In this, his first volume of original verse since the award-winning Landing Light, Don Paterson is found writing at his most memorable and direct. In an assembly of masterful lyrics and monologues, he conjures a series of fables and charms that serve both to expose us to the unsettling forces within the world and to offer some protection against them. Whether outwardly elemental in their address or more personal in their direction, these poems—addressed to the rain and the sea, to his young sons or beloved friends—never shy from their inquiry into truth and lie, embracing everything in scope from the rangy narrative to the tiny renku. Rain, which includes the winner of this year’s Forward Prize for the Best Individual Poem and an extended elegy for the poet Michael Donaghy, is Paterson’s most intimate and manifest collection to date.
Readers of Scottish poet Paterson (Landing Light) have come to depend on him for well-crafted poems, often in traditional forms, that present a dark-humored but unfailingly high-spirited and challenging perspective on conventional themes (love, death, identity). His latest collection—winner of last year's Forward Prize—doesn't disappoint. It does, however, take a while to get going. The book's first half suggests Paterson may have gone soft, its poems veering toward the pithy and tender, with his work as an aphorist (“As the bird is to the air/ and the whale is to the sea/ so man is to his dream”) and experiences as a father (“My boy is painting outer space,/ and steadies his brush-tip to trace/ the comets, planets, moon and sun”) setting the tone a bit too dear. But with the astonishing, fabular “Bathysphere” appearing mid-book, the poet returns to form. The book's second half showcases some of his finest work, including a glorious extended elegy for poet Michael Donaghy, and the beautiful, bleak title poem, which closes the collection on a purely Patersonian note: “we rose up from the falling waters... and none of this, none of this matters.” (Apr.)