Awarding the prize, the Costa judges described this collection as “A tour de force by a poet at the height of his powers – these poems buzz with life and intelligence. The stand-out collection of the year.”
40 Sonnets is the new collection by Don Paterson, a rich and accomplished work from one of the foremost poets writing in English today. This new collection from Don Paterson, his first since the Forward prize-winning Rain in 2009, is a series of forty sonnets. Some take a more traditional form, some are highly experimental, but what these poems share is a lyrical intelligence and musical gift that has been visible in his work since his first book of poems, Nil Nil, in 2009. Addressed to children, friends and enemies, the living and the dead, musicians, poets and dogs, these poems display an ambition in their scope and tonal range matched by the breadth of their concerns. Here, voices call home from the blackout and the airlock, the storm cave and the sance, the coalshed, the war, the ringroad, the forest and the sea. These are voices frustrated by distance, by shot glass and bar rail, by the dark, leaving the ‘sound that fades up from the hiss, / like a glass some random downdraught had set ringing, / now full of its only note, its lonely call . . .’In 40 Sonnets Paterson returns to some of his central themes – contradiction and strangeness, tension and transformation, the dream world, and the divided self – in some of the most powerful and formally assured poems he has written to date.