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Landing Light

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Landing Light won for Don Paterson the 2003 Whitbread Poetry Award as well as Paterson's second T.S. Eliot Prize; Paterson is the only poet ever to have won this award twice. It should come as no surprise, then, that the poems of Landing Light are small miracles of language. Paterson's range of style alone would make the collection noteworthy; poems range from short lyrics to multi-page long poems, from carefully rhymed and metered pieces to free-verse, from lovely English to even lovelier Scots, from the very funny to the deadly serious, often in the same poem.

But beyond variety, the thirty-eight poems of Landing Light are exceptional in their depth. Paterson manipulates the rhythms of language to yield up something greater than the sum of the individual words. The light of the title is dawn in the first poem, and sunset in the last; against convention, the poems move not toward death, but toward something like redemption.

The poems often speak of the double nature of human existence, how an event that is tragic can also be comic, often at the same time. These references to twinning and doubling remind the reader that there is distance in intimacy, and loneliness in love. Paterson also talks to himself, to the reader, and to other poets throughout the volume, participating in an ongoing and ancient conversation. The poems of Landing Light are by no means easy; they are complex, nuanced, and complicated. But the rewards are great. These are poems to be savored, to be read and reread, destined to become of the reader's life.