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Don Paterson

Just a snippet of news in that my critical perspective of Don Paterson's work to date is now up on the British Council's Contemporary Writers database, here.

A critical perspective of Simon Armitage's poetry, novels and translation will follow.


You forgot to mention his widely-known, controversial, polemical and principled, opposition to a late-modernist poetics more interested in language and theory than more traditional conceptions of the lyrical voice. Paterson is a good writer, and a smart one, often ironically updating Pope's neo-classical critical interests in translation, critics, and the reader, but you present him as a bland figure, instead of one as divisive as Prynne. Indeed, this is the Age of Prynne/Paterson, in terms of critical debate, for better and worse.
Ben Wilkinson said…
I agree that Paterson is a divisive figure, Todd, and you're right to flag the lack of mention I give to this in my perspective on his work. If I were writing an article on his work for a magazine or journal I would no doubt have dealt with it more explicitly. But the idea of the CPs on the British Council's website, at least to my mind, are to present a writer's work to a wide variety of readers, some of whom may not be at all familiar with it, or even particularly with contemporary poetry in general. This is why, rather than getting into the politics behind his poetic style, I decided to flag his lyric leanings and his influences, which hopefully speak for themselves. It's also why I only mentioned his recent essay in Poetry Review as being controversial, rather than getting embroiled in my, and others', disagreements with it. While the CPs I've written for the Contemporary Writers site in many ways represent my opinions, then, they are also suited to the site's style: that is, to be accessible and informative to as many readers as possible. As a result, I tend to focus on the author's work rather than the poetics and politics they subscribe to. After all, there are plenty of places, from magazines and journals to widely-read blogs like yours, that deal with the importance and impact of the latter.

And did I present him as a bland figure? I think the poems discussed show him to be quite a varied sort of writer - God's Gift to Women, for example, was quite an experimental volume for a 'mainstream' poet, even if, at times, only on the surface.

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