The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 26, 2010

Don Paterson's Recent Favorites

Guest blogger Don Paterson is a poet (Rain) and editor at a publisher in the UK.

511064I read Jamie McKendrick’s versions of the contemporary Italian poet Valerio Magrelli when they came out in the UK, and I was delighted to hear that FSG is publishing them in Vanishing Points. Refracted through JM‘s bone-dry wit, Magrelli reads like an Italian Charles Simic—which is just about the world’s classiest arrangement, in my book. Also check out Magrelli’s Instructions on How to Read a Newspaper, which has a subversive little poem on everything from the bar code to the small ads; trust me, The New York Times will never look the same again.

Is it really more than nine years since Gjertrud Schnackenberg published The Throne of Labdacus, and can someone have her speed up just a little? GS really is a glory of a poet, and one of the most shamefully underrated in your country, if you’ll forgive a Scot for telling you so. Supernatural Love is never far from the bedside table. If you’ve somehow missed out on her, go read Two Tales of Clumsy, and wake at 3 a.m. to the sound of your own screaming. I know I did. On the subject of underrated Americans, I try not to miss an opportunity to rave about the late Michael Donaghy’s Collected Poems, still not published in the United States. Yes, he was a dear friend of mine, and yes, we published him in the UK—but I’m pretty sure that even if that hadn’t been the case, I would have still claimed he was one of the great poets of the age. We all did; he was a huge influence on a whole generation of UK poets. Like Frost, he sounds light but reads dark, and his poems open up slowly to reveal themselves as constructions of staggering complexity and ingenuity. They’re like little self-winding clocks, built with all their fixed and moving parts completely interdependent, something Donaghy learned from Paul Muldoon. They’re also full of wisdom. I never fail to be amazed by his work.

What else is great? Everything by Kay Ryan and Anne Carson. Charles Wright’s Sestets. Mark Doty’s Theories and Apparitions. From the British poets, look out for Paul Farley’s indispensable selected, The Atlantic Tunnel. Also Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers, and a lovely, quiet, wise book called Grain by John Glenday.

—Don Paterson

Related: Don Paterson's aphorisms


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