The White Lie


A rising star in the United Kingdom, contemporary Scottish poet Paterson is poised to become a major voice of our time. The London Review of Books calls him "one of the most talented Scottish writers of the new generation." The White Lie is the first and only American selection of Paterson’s lyric and urbane poems.

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A rising star in the United Kingdom, contemporary Scottish poet Paterson is poised to become a major voice of our time. The London Review of Books calls him "one of the most talented Scottish writers of the new generation." The White Lie is the first and only American selection of Paterson’s lyric and urbane poems.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"If you are wondering whether great poems are still being written, you ought to read Don Paterson’s The White Lie."—Charles Simic

"America is in for a delightful treat now that the work of Scottish poet Don Paterson is within its easy reach. A perfect blend of light and dark humor, his poems combine the mordant with the celebratory, the sweetness of the heart with the bitter taste of experience. Most of all, he knows how to write poems in which every line is awake, every one composed with care and a billiard-player’s feel for the way language can spin us subtly this way and that."—Billy Collins

"His is the kind of poetry that teaches all us writers of prose a thing or three; words weighed with equal attention to form and function; sentiment reigned in and challenged; images of such particularity and elegance, it makes you jealous to look at them. Above all, Paterson has an infinite sensitivity to the world, and that rare quality makes any collection of his work a cause for celebration."—Zadie Smith

"The sheer vigor and liveliness of Mr. Paterson’s imagination, the bustle and thunder of his language, his speed of thought, admirable energy, wit, and dexterity make The White Lie an occasion in the history of modern poetry worth boisterous celebration."—Anthony Hecht

From The Critics
Paterson's latest book collects poems from his first three volumes—Nil, Nil; God's Gift to Women; and The Eyes—along with five new poems. This is well-made verse, and Paterson exhibits a fine ear. But while the romantic notion of the autodidact who thumbs his nose at the old college dons is attractive, Paterson tends to overcompensate with heavy-handed erudition smothered in gritty, sentimental images of street love gone sour. The lines are sprinkled with predictable Gaelic references, good-old Anglo-Saxon vulgarity, obscure and archaic words and British Isles street slang. The poems frequently resort to violent adolescent fantasies and troubling visions of cruelty to women and children; Paterson is a younger, Scottish version of Bukowski. It's a bit of fun for the lads, and perhaps there's even an element of self-parody, but the tiresome, unrelenting nihilism feels more like impetuousness than outrage. As Paterson writes in a poem aptly titled " Advice": "To be quite honest with you,/none of this is terribly important."
—Stephen Whited

Publishers Weekly
Paterson's insouciant bad-boy riffs, quickly told stories and fluent rhymes have made him a hit in Britain: the Scottish writer and jazz guitarist hits these shores with this wildly uneven, sometimes striking, U.S. debut. The collection opens with short, anecdotal poems from Nil Nil, the early-'90s book that made his name. As with his peers Glyn Maxwell and Simon Armitage, Paterson's skewed sonnets and shaggy-dog stanzas owe plenty to Paul Muldoon: Paterson distinguished his early poems through their laddish subjects, rhyming "blunt" with a ruder word in a poem about "an ancient, beat-up Phillips turntable." "Prologue" (from his second U.K. book, God's Gift to Women) seeks "that sunless pit of rancour and alarm/ where language finds its least prestigious form"; its couplets introduce disturbing poems about sex, drugs, soccer and Scotland (especially sex). The most effective of the lot begins by quoting a partner ("Is it normal to get this wet?") and ends with a striking visual memory: "the night we lay down on the flag of surrender/ and woke on the flag of Japan." Paterson's desire to capture hip lingo can clash, sometimes fruitfully, with his interests in loneliness and in dreams, notably in a lengthy two-part poem that likens a musty used bookstore to the Library of Alexandria. Paterson's latest work seems less distinctive: adapting Eastern Europeans or crafting descriptive filigree, he seems in search of a new, more mature approach. At his best, Paterson shows a young man trying to understand himself, his language, his id and his urban surroundings: readers who want to check out British poetry's recent populist turn could do a lot worse, but some readers may find these "white lie[s]"and hetero musings rather unamusing. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, and Eamon Grennan already established in the United States as premier poets, Great Britain delivers another promising poet to our shores. Recipient of the T.S. Eliot Prize, this eclectic collection consists of poems from Paterson's three previous collections and illustrates his development as a poet of both craft and vision. It seems that where he fails in the early poems, he delivers in his more recent work. The early poems have abrupt shifts in tone and content, and many of the personal references obscure rather than illuminate. In their diction and imagery, the later poems feature a stronger and more mature voice. Paterson's use of alliteration and assonance carries readers from one line to another as if they were floating through space. This is especially evident when the emphasis is on the "k", "l," and "o" sounds: "the sun leaves like a rocket; the sky goes out;/ the road floods and widens; on the distant kerb/ the lost souls groan and mew like sad trombones." Such wonderful music exists throughout the entire collection. A noteworthy addition. Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555973537
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Paterson was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1963. His poetry collections include Nil Nil, God’s Gift to Women, and The Eyes. Paterson has been the recipient of several literary awards and prizes, including the T.S. Eliot Prize. He is currently Poetry Editor at Picador (U.K.) and divides his time between Edinburgh and Kirriemuir, Scotland. Paterson is also a jazz guitarist and has recorded many albums with his band, The Lammas.

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Table of Contents

From Nil Nil
The Ferryman's Arms 3
Morning Prayer 4
Filter 5
Exeunt 6
Sunset, Visingso 9
Ezekiel 10
Sisters 12
Seed 13
An Elliptical Stylus 14
Amnesia 16
The Alexandrian Library 18
Next to Nothing 28
The Trans-Siberian Express 29
Pioneer 30
Wind-Tunnel 31
Poem 32
Perigee 33
Bedfellows 34
Nil Nil 35
From God's Gift to Women
Prologue 41
00:00: Law Tunnel 43
The Scale of Intensity 45
The Chartres of Gowrie 47
11:00: Baldovan 48
A Private Bottling 50
To Cut It Short 54
Buggery 55
God's Gift to Women 56
The Lover 65
Imperial 66
Little Corona 67
12:00: Dronley 68
The Alexandrian Library Part II: The Return of the Book 69
19:00: Auchterhouse 78
from Advice to Young Husbands 79
Candlebird 80
From The Eyes
Advice 83
To Emiliano Barral 84
The Eyes 85
Profession of Faith 86
Meditation 87
Paradoxes 88
Poetry 89
Promethean 90
Road 91
Siesta 92
3 O'Clock 93
The Waterwheel 94
The Work 95
To the Great Zero 96
New Poems
The Wreck 99
Luing 100
St. Brides: Sea-Mail 101
My Love 103
The White Lie 105
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