PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Thomas Kinsella in conversation Jeffrey Wainwright comes to grips with St Chad Hsien Min Toh gives us a Korean perspective Iain Bamforth on Lou and Fritz: Sensible Shoes meets Starstruck Judith Bishop on Love and Self-Understanding in an Algorythmic Age

This review is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

NOT SAYING MUCH JOHN FULLER, Pebble & I (Chatto and Windus) £10.00
LACHLAN MACKINNON, Small Hours (Faber and Faber) £9.99
DON PATERSON, Rain (Faber and Faber) £12.99

These three volumes of poetry, by three accomplished practitioners of the arts of versification, each make explicit that they do not offer to treat of very much and, by and large, they live up or down to that promise. ‘Is that philosophy?’ John Fuller sceptically asks: Lachlan MacKinnon, more rawly and bluntly: ‘is that poetry?’ William Blake once invited us to ‘see a world in a grain of sand’ but these poets, different in many ways, surprisingly share a willingness to be often content in observing grains of sand, shells, pebbles, and other small phenomena to be found at the rainy margins of land and sea. Such modesty, in eschewing any greedy hunt for meaning, requires courage and brings rewards, not least the avoiding of our big contemporary clichés. Don Paterson begins his collection with the story of the grafting of a lemon tree and an orange tree, and the subsequent undoing of that graft – a fable- or parable-like poem, with canonical precedents and thus very tempting of interpretation – only for Paterson to end his poem:

They were trees, and trees don’t weep or ache or shout.
And trees are all this poem is about.
                                                                  (‘Two Trees’)

So the eager exegetes of the contemporary critical world are dismissed firmly at the front door of Paterson’s collection. The promise of not saying much is, however, a demanding one and one worth keeping. It certainly takes very rare and exceptional gifts ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image