Friday, 24 July 2015

Ten Reasons Why You Might Enjoy The Book of Shadows by Don Paterson A personal view by Roger Stevens

Don Paterson was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1963. He has won more awards and prizes for his poetry than you can shake a stanza at. He has also published three books of aphorisms, of which The Book of Shadows is one.

1 Who wouldn’t want a book of aphorisms on their bookshelf? And this collection, by one of Britain’s finest poets is a beauty.

2 An aphorism is a terse saying, expressing a general truth, principle, or astute observation, and spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form. And what a great feeling when you read an aphorism and it speaks to you.

3 Aphorisms can be very short and witty.

If I try to write anything longer than a single sentence, I find myself just making things up.

5 Aphorisms can be long and chewy.

Poetry is a mode of reading, not of writing. We can read a poem into anything. A poet is someone skilled in manipulating that innate human capacity to make things sign. They advertise the significance of the form in its shape or speech, build in enough strangeness and intrigue to have the reader read in, enough familiarity not to repel them, and calculate enough reward for their effort. But so much poetry now is all advertisement, or all familiarity, or all strangeness, or all calculation.

7 This is a great book for dipping into. Like a botanist in a boat travelling through the coral reefs.

Almost everything in the room will survive you. To the room, you are already a ghost, a pathetic soft thing, coming and going.

9 If you enjoy poetry but are looking for something a little different… this is a word from the wise.

10 Falling and flying are near-identical sensations, in all but one final detail. We should remember this when we see those men and women seemingly in love with their own decline.

Aphorisms in italics are taken from The Book of Shadows.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Ten Reasons Why… You Might Enjoy Poems on the Underground A personal view by Roger Stevens

If you’ve ever travelled on London’s Underground you will have noticed that, every now and then, between the adverts for mints and temps, there is a poem. It all began back in 1986 as an idea shared among a few friends, Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert. Wouldn’t it be a great idea, they thought, to fill the blank grey advertising slots with poems, for the public to read, think about and enjoy. London Underground liked the idea. And now, thirty years later, they have become a wonderful part of the tube journey. They provide a distraction from the crowded carriage. Sometimes they lift the spirits. They make the journey more bearable. There are several Poems on the Underground books – but here are the beginnings of ten poems showing why you might enjoy them, from the Penguin edition of 2012, published to mark London Underground’s 150th anniversary. And a little quiz – Can you name the authors of these poems? Answers below.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach…
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…
In London/ every now and then/ I get this craving/ for my mother’s food
I leave art galleries/ in search of plantains/ saltfish/ sweet potatoes…
I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paperweight,
All the misery of manila folders…
Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon…
The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said
The recent buds relax and spread/ Their greenness is a kind of grief
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty…
English Teeth, English Teeth/ Shining in the sun
A part of British heritage/ Aye, each and every one
Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green…
The highway is full of big cars/ going nowhere fast
And folks is smoking anything that’ll burn
Some people wrap their lives around a cocktail glass
And you sit wondering/ where you’re going to turn
I got it./ Come. And be my baby…

1 Elizabeth Barrett Browning 2 Percy Bysshe Shelley 3 Grace Nichols 4 Theodore Roethke 5 Carol Ann Duffy
6 Philip Larkin 7 William Wordsworth 8 Spike Milligan 9 Adrienne Rich 10 Maya Angelou

Friday, 3 July 2015


When Mum was discharged from hospital we were told she wouldn't last three weeks. I wrote this then, in prose form and amended it after. Since then Mum appears to be recovering. That said, the disease she has simply repeats until ultimately it claims her. However, she is now on the mend....


Thin now, thinner than last week, growing weaker.
Arms like bamboo.
Face gaunt, veined, hollow eyed.
Haunted eyes that follow vague ghosts
Medically all is well, apparently. ...
Unable to walk without aid.
Eats little, drinks less, sleeps a lot.

Drifting somewhere between the flickering of her eyelids and the memories of dad, of me as a child.
When she wakes she smiles seeing me the boy I was.
No longer the man but the son on whom she doted,
All my perceived crimes forgiven.
It is the passing of days.
It is right and proper.
All things must pass but must the passing be so painful for those watching?

Let her have peace.
Let her drift into dreamless sleep.
Rather than this human life unceremoniously dispatched.