Essays: Don Paterson |
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Don Paterson

A hard man to disconcert, Don Paterson was disconcerted when his book on Shakespeare’s sonnets, called Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets, was castigated for its variable tone. Even a cursory reading should  have revealed that a variable tone was exctly what he was after, but to expect his critics to get the point of his prose would have been to expect justice in this world. Paterson’s critics already have too much to deal with: his poetry is first class, and wins all the awards. His critics, worn out from being unable to disagree with common opinion, would rather that his prose could be second class, and win nothing. But his Shakespeare book is a critical milestone. Its tone is indeed variable — sometimes he overdoes the clutchless gear shifts — but it has an unmatched store of critical evaluations based on actual knowledge. Paterson is a poetic craftsman who knows how to talk about poetic craft in others: even in Shakespeare, the greatest craftsman of them all. Written as part of the publicity campaign for the book, this article for the Guardian can be regarded as a summary of his text; as an ideal introduction to it; and as an ideal introduction to Paterson himself.

I should say here, to stave off accusations of a conflict of interest, that Paterson is my editor at Picador. But I would have said all this anyway.

Click here to read Don Paterson on Shakespeare's Sonnets