clawing back to shakespeare


I wanted to say something to counteract the perception of Shakespeare’s compositional method as a kind of lyric soduku, and put in a word for the kind of glorious, messy procedure I’m quite certain it was, whatever the crystalline and symmetrical beauty of the final results. Like most poets, Shakespeare uses the poem as way of working out what he’s thinking, not as a means of reporting that thought. Often he’ll start with nothing more than a hangover, a fever and a bad night spent being tormented by the spectre of his absent lover. Then he’ll use the sonnet as a way of making sense of it all – a way, first, to extract a logic from pain, and then a comfort from that logic, however warped it might be. Form, in other words, allows him to draw some assuagement from the very source of the agony itself. So I decided to try to honour this sense of free play by taking as different an approach as the individual poem might itself prompt. Sonnet 109, for example, is a patently disingenuous excuse offered for Shakespeare’s negligence of his lover, and I made a parallel translation from bullshit into English.

more from Don Paterson at The Guardian here.