40 Sonnets, Don Paterson, Poetry Book Society, Sean O'Brien, T S Eliot Prize, The Beautiful Librarians
A couple more of my reviews of T.S. Eliot prize shortlisted collections have been posted on the Poetry Book Society’s Poetry Portal: Sean O’Brien’s The Beautiful Librarians and Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets.
The Beautiful Librarians is a book for our times: the buildings may be clean but the bonds and the money are dirty – we’re all implicated in the grotesque excesses of consumption.
At one level, 40 Sonnets is a needlepoint sampler: to read it is to appreciate Paterson’s mastery of the form. However, Paterson throws the rules away too, leaving us with an extraordinary collection of poems which engage the reader at every level.
Buy The Beautiful Librarians from the PBS shop
Buy 40 Sonnets from the PBS shop
- Sean O’Brien at Picador
- Sean O’Brien at the Poetry Archive
- Don Paterson at the Poetry Foundation
- Don Paterson at the Scottish Poetry Library
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I enjoyed reading some of 40 Sonnets whilst teaching ‘Shall I compare thee’ and Rossetti’s ‘Monna Innominata’. I agree with you about ‘Incarnation’ and I really liked ‘The Eye’ and ‘The Air’.
Hi, Emily. I agree – especially about ‘The Air’ – classic Paterson. There’s something ineffable about his elemental metamorphoses. What great poems to be reading as you were teaching sonnets. Did you share any with the class? I’m also jealous to read that you are teaching Rossetti! It has been about 8 years since my last encounter with her in the classroom and I’m looking forward to sharing her with the current LVI next academic year.
My fifth year is comprised of many burly boys not yet wholly enthused by the sonnet (!), but there are a couple in there who love it, and I’m sure would really enjoy reading some of Paterson’s variations of the form, especially ‘Incarnation’. And perhaps something like this would be a way for all of them to connect with it better. I’ve had a wonderful reacquaintance with sonnets – as I’ve not only encountered these, but also taught ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ (twice) and ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’. It brings back lovely, if distant, memories of studying some of Dante and Petrarch’s sonnets at university. I love Christina Rossetti, especially ‘Goblin Market’. We only did the one of hers though – ‘If only I could remember’ – as it is in the CIE anthology. It’s interesting how he she ruminates on and remains entrapped in her frustration rather than revelling in a Shakespearean conclusion. I’m sure the girls will love doing her poems next year! Lucky them! With my LVI, we’ve just done some Tishani Doshi, Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel – a very different group of poems.