One of the UK’s leading poets, Don Paterson, is also a guitarist. He played with the jazz-folk ensemble ‘Lammas’ and is now back playing music at the highest level with Scotland’s most talented jazz musicians: pianist Steve Hamilton and saxophonist Tim Garland.
Born in Dundee in 1963, he later moved to London to work as a jazz musician – which was around the same time he started writing poetry. He now is a lecturer at the University of St Andrews. Music is important to Paterson. “How can I put it? You don’t get to choose what you are better at, and if I had a choice, I would have preferred to be a better musician, really. Because it’s the thing that I love more. Which isn’t to say that I don’t love poetry. But maybe its to say that my relationship with literature has been such a working, professional one for such a long time – inevitably that subtracts a certain amount of the magic.”
Does music influence his poetry? “I always think that as a single organism, if you do any two activities, after a while you are going to find analogies and rhymes between them. If you are doing – I don’t know, origami and hang-gliding – it will be the same thing again. A lot of the analogies that people make between music and poetry are actually quite facile, they’re not true. But at a technical level there are some things, in my mind at least, that are mapped to each other.” He adds: “There is a normative shift in poetry where sound are sense are much more evenly balanced than they are in other forms of verbal communication. Sound and sense make double-sided signs in poetry, and it helps if you can listen carefully – and I think that’s a skill you can learn from playing.”