Sometimes, it seems like books are brought to me. Dropped into my lap for me to find at a specific moment. I bought my professor Don Paterson's new book Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets as a gift for a friend of a friend. Turns out, I bought the wrong one and so I decided to just keep it. I picked it up yesterday to read it and haven't put it down since.
It's a book about Shakespeare's poetry, but it's also a book about poetry as a whole.
It's told in typical Don style-- the best of his speaking style really. Completely casual, it's pretty much like having a conversation with him (But a little easier minus the brogue). He talks about couplets being in the "country & western idiom" so much that he'd like to hear "sung by Merle Haggard with a cod piece." Once you've gone through all 154 of them, he begins the commentary with "Last poem. Group hug!"
And it truly is a modern, normal person's book on some of the most famous (And some over-looked) sonnets ever written. From the great Insomnia sonnet, #28 to the "young lovers: this poem is not for you" #118.
One such overlooked gem is probably my fave Shakespeare sonnet, #26. He says this:
There are few poems that handily articulate anything like 'common emotions'; WS's experience is too singular, and he's too weird a bloke. However, in a way he's done something even more remarkable: he's written a poem that, when you intone it, when you inhabit it, can make you physically feel like you're in love again. You remember? Love, in all its derangement, fatal hope, excessive caution, recklessness, sleeplessness, nausea, delirium, euphoria, terror, in all its strange superstitions and propitations... it all comes roaring back, and you feel, to quote CK Williams, 'the old heart stamping in its stall.'Ah.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book.
|photo by David Sandison|