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.
4 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.
6 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.
8 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.