Requests

by Don Paterson

copyright ©2015 by Don Paterson

O tell us more about your dad,
or why your second wife went mad,
or how it was you had no choice
but to give those men a voice;
sing that Cornish lullaby
you hush your kids with when they cry,
produce a boiled egg from your pocket,
a flageolet from your jacket,
expand on your idea that rhyme
is dead, or tell us of the time
you dropped your cellphone in the toilet;
a joke, a bird-call – please don’t spoil it,
go on with your brilliant proem!
Anything but read your poem.

Notes on the Poem

Since we're on a bit of a roll scrutinizing sonnets, we simply can't resist turning the Poem of the Week spotlight next on the sly and wonderful "Requests" from Don Paterson's 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection - wait for it - 40 Sonnets. For someone who so deftly and incisively wields the form, it's rather humorous to hear Paterson claim before he reads the poem in this clip that he is "absolutely not" a lover of the sonnet form. Really? Then again, perhaps a witty skeptic is best equipped to take to its limits and subvert the form. Certainly, the jaunty rhythm of Paterson's rollicking rhyming couplets here - whether you're enjoying them on the page or hearing them performed by the poet - bolster immeasurably the poem's wicked observations. Not only that, but as a reader or listener, you get to smile and sink your teeth into the potential double and triple entendres of such grand words as "flageolet" and "proem". As well, isn't it great fun to relish the self-effacing irony of Paterson's introduction to this poem about introductions?

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