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This review is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

INTIMATE PLEASURES DON PATERSON, Landing Light (Faber) £12.99
LAVINIA GREENLAW, Minsk (Faber) £12.99

Bound in deep black with luminous yellow endpapers, Don Paterson's third collection of poems alludes to its contents in the most concrete of ways. Landing Light is many things, but above all it records the poet's experiences of epiphany and desolation. In this sometimes maddeningly inquiring book, Paterson reveals a determination to engage with what, at one point, he calls the `underself', that condition of otherness which seems to operate beyond the present and through which our true lives may be said to play.

While a certain amount of intellectual gamesmanship was characteristic of both Nil Nil and God's Gift to Women, Paterson has never been more ruminative. Fatherhood and an apparently settled life in his native Scotland appears to have mellowed a writer whom might once have been accused of a rather boyish interest in alcohol and sex. Fittingly, the opening poem locates the speaker on the isle of Luing:

Here, beside the fordable Atlantic,
reborn into a secret candidacy,
the fontanelles reopen one by one
in the palms, then the breastbone and the brow ...

Some pages later, in one of his most tender productions yet, Paterson describes an exchange of smiles with his son on waking, a passage which marks the volume's emotional highpoint:

See how the true gift never leaves the giver:
returned and redelivered, it rolled on
until the smile poured through us like a river.
How ...


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