Friday, September 04, 2009

Don Paterson as Andrew Marvell

Andrew Shields has posted a short consideration of 'Two Trees', from Don Paterson's new collection Rain. He rightly points out the oddity of the poem's close, where Paterson refuses the extended metaphors he has available (the whole poem is in Andrew's post):

They were trees, and trees don't weep or ache or shout.
And trees are all this poem is about
.

Not that it quite resolves that oddity, but I'm also struck by the metaphysical flavour of the poem; in particular, how Marvellian it is. This is partly a matter of the rhyming couplets, handled (apparently) loosely and skating over a series of rhythmical glitches; but it's also partly a matter of the argumentative play. The poem's slightly terrifying dead-end close underlines this: it's the poetic equivalent of when a cartoon car goes over a cliff and drops away, leaving the driver in mid-air. This reminds me somehow of Marvell – how even his best work seems slightly careless, dashed off; and this quality, of seeming to have been written by someone who knew it didn't matter, is both charming and dreadful.

5 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Shields said...

I love the image of the poem as cartoon car!

And I also appreciate the way that you found another poet to connect my point to. I felt that there must be other poems out there that do this, but I could not think of any.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Tony Williams said...

Thanks, Andrew – and thanks for your original post, too; I enjoyed it.

10:27 AM  
Blogger REQUIRED FIELD MUST NOT BE LEFT BLANK said...

you're right about dreadful
it's terrifying
but i think that's Paterson's ground
he is one of the important ones
his poems battle oblivion

2:03 PM  
Blogger Tony Williams said...

Hi Required Field,
Yes, the dread is not accidental, is it?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

What is truly marvellous about this poem is that its form so perfectly matches its subject: those rhyming couplets echo the grafting; the 'rhythmical glitches' reflect the ways in which the disparate boughs have become entangled; the two stanzas echo the separation. The final reverse psychology invites us al to read the selling of the house as the end of a relationship, and so on.

9:47 AM  

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