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Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. His previous poetry collections include Nil NilGod’s Gift to WomenLanding Light and Rain. He has also published two books of aphorisms, as well as translations of Antonio Machado and Rainer Maria Rilke. His poetry has won many awards, including the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and all three Forward Prizes; he is currently the only poet to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize twice. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2009. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the English Association and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of St. Andrews. Since 1997 he has been poetry editor at Picador Macmillan, and he also works as a jazz musician and composer. He lives in Edinburgh.

40 Sonnets

Faber & Faber
2016 Shortlist
United Kingdom

Judges’ Citation

About half the poems in Don Paterson’s latest book are strict sonnets and half are wild or disobedient sonnets (four beats to a line, one word to a line, one word to a whole poem or sometimes just plain prose) but these variants of one form work together to make a fascinating and sustained piece of music, like a fugue.

About half the poems in Don Paterson’s latest book are strict sonnets and half are wild or disobedient sonnets (four beats to a line, one word to a line, one word to a whole poem or sometimes just plain prose) but these variants of one form work together to make a fascinating and sustained piece of music, like a fugue. The poems use their patterns to think through questions about consciousness. They are smart and exact but at the same time surprisingly emotional. Since 1993 Paterson has been eroding his style from the light loose poems of Nil Nil towards the spare almost mathematical brilliance of this book. He can write now with resonant clarity about anything: his dog, his children, the air, Dundee Council, Tony Blair, the soul. The melody of the sonnet form gives all these subjects an unstrained seriousness. 40 Sonnets is a wonderful offering, patiently made.