Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Poet Don Paterson: Not a Calling, a Diagnosis!

Charlotte with Tony, one of our fellow writers.
As we waited for Don Paterson to arrive from a morning gig at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Charlotte Johnson celebrated her last day as president of the Reading Room by indulging her taste buds with a yummy cone in the bar of Skeabost Country House Hotel. The rest of us had tea and cookies I brought in case of the munchies--and we had them! We were gathered to partake of what turned out to be a gem of a poetry workshop, some hours before the Reading Room evening meeting at the end of April. Yes, it was a month ago and as is the case recently, I am
Don Paterson at the head of the table: 'Try to converse in iambic
pentameter. It's much easier to do with a gin and tonic in your hand!'
remiss with my postings. My mind has been twiddled by dealings with the Home Office

and at writing time, I am in Edinburgh waiting to pick up my passport from immigration officials and take off for the U.S. of A. But as I've said before, that is another posting! Just wait til I've stopped crying.

From our patio location, I could look across Loch Snizort Beag and up the hill to Tote and my little pink caravan I had been offered for a month, by my friend, Ann. It was like having a workshop in my own backyard.
Margaret, Beverly, Charlotte, Val, Kathy and Tony.

Our good bud Don is an astute editor and teacher, thus we at the workshop were much better off as poets when we dispersed. I have all kinds of tidbits written in my little silk book: 

'Stick it in the title - then it relieves the poem of having to mention it!'            

'Identify the intention of the poem, then see the way it is doing and not doing it.'

'Is the word working? What is the line doing? What we're trying to do with the poem is being memorable.' 

'Fuzziness gives readers problems, when you could have told them. Is it literal?' 

'Emphasize but be careful of typography. You can literally do what you want, but what are you risking?' 

'If you are making a metaphorical move, be sure the reader knows.' 

'With hanging lines, the phrase can take a battering.'

'Try it in quatrains - makes it tighter, to move stuff it doesn't need - less is more.' 

'Show, not tell, but be careful of lots of concrete descriptions. What you're trying to do is prompt the feelings. The reader is concerned with his own feelings, so write with the feeling - provoke the feeling.'

'Sing your poetry!'

Don Paterson was introduced to the Reading Room audience by incoming president, Linda Henderson, with a list of impressive awards. Don said, 'It's a funny thing about poetry readings...I hate them and I'm just drunk enough to admit it,' though he said he loved one because of the introduction: 'A marvelous introduction - better than the poems.'

Still, the credits make you want to go and stick your head in the oven...this guy who stands at the blackboard at the University of St. Andrews has received the 2008 OBE, 2010 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, TS Eliot Prize, Forward Prize, Whitbread Poetry Prize, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association. He is also Poetry Editor at Picador MacMillan. He does music too...look up his website at www.donpaterson.com.
Doesn't he look like he has an attitude?
Folks didn't realize we had an agreement--I was to let him know
when I was going to shoot him...okay Don, NOW!

   More on the meeting: It was an occasion for accolades, hugs and tears, as Charlotte Johnson slid over for Linda Henderson, amid the gift presentation and verbal love tokens for the job well done. Charlotte told members that the highlight of her stint was Anthology - Words from an Island that the group produced: 'The reality is it's beginning to make money, thanks to all the artists.' She continued, 'I have to say as outgoing chair - I cannot stress enough - what a great committee we have. They're brilliant...and the high caliber of writers we're attracting... I'm also very grateful to Sarah Pentland for her work over the past two years.'

Linda Henderson is the brave new president of The Reading Room on Skye.

...and me, I'm missing the May meeting tonight, with Linda Cracknell and her just published book, Doubling Back. Boo hoo. I will continue Angel on Skye, because no matter where I roam my heart and soul are on the island. Feel free to send me info on what's happening.