16 June, 2014

Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets by Don Paterson [Paul, Birkenhead]

So, yeah, Shakespeare. Well, one of the things about his sonnets is that very smart people do very close readings of them and you get to see how it all sort of hangs together. Which doesn't much happen with most poetry.

But with Shakespeare its allowed because-because. Because the language has changed, the culture has shifted, er, cos he's considerably dead. So you can use a dictionary, or like ask somebody else. Which is nice.

Paterson makes a not uninteresting guide. Maybe cos he's a poet himself, or more likely cos he famously grouchy and hard of head. There's no bling in his blarney as he goes straight for the cobbledy cookery of  poetry. Of the poet too.  Both real but imperfect, nothing sublime except when they are.

So, relief. No scholarly arcana, more a ramble-romp-rant. The Paterson persona-non-grateful getting stuck into each sonnet in turn, riling at awfulness, picking at scabs, and grumbling on and on about the vast peculiarities of other critics. Except at times when he likes them, the critics I mean, and okay, even the poems. And then too he likes to yacht off on tangents about other things, like jazz, and how poetry is actually written actually, and how of course Shakespeare was a selfish self-pitying misogynistic gay trisexual prone to hideously redundant couplets, padding, fiddles, repetitions and obscurities. Still, he had his moments.

The book's a bit of a stew without an index of anything. Well, so, what do you want, a spoon?

Title: Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets
Author: Don Paterson
Publisher: Faber, 2010.

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