Sunday, 24 July 2011

Don Paterson - The Lie

So the third and final of my Lyric festival blog posts is about Don Paterson. He has a sort of melancholic/haunted look in his eyes like he knows the world is going to dump seething piles of excrement upon him and he can't do anything about it but is otherwise a very charismatic man. It was also quite interesting in that in any blurb about him they always make a passing reference to his desire to be a jazz musician which I hadn't given much thought to until he kept taking breaks in his performance to play an acoustic guitar along with a humerous aside about vasaline...

His poems were as high quality as I was hoping, the unexpected gem was when he explained that he had challenged himself to write a series of sonnets this year and read one that he had written about the TV show House! It had a rather epic feel, referring to him as the 'crippled god' although I may be biased by my love of the show..

The best he read that I can actually find the words to however is this...

Don Paterson - The Lie

As was my custom, I’d risen a full hour
before the house had woken to make sure
that everything was in order with The Lie,
his drip changed and his shackles all secure.

I was by then so practiced in this chore
I’d counted maybe thirteen years or more
since last I’d felt the urge to meet his eye.
Such, I liked to think, was our rapport.

I was at full stretch to test some ligature
when I must have caught a ragged thread, and tore
his gag away; though as he made no cry,
I kept on with my checking as before.

Why do you call me The Lie? he said. I swore:
it was a child’s voice. I looked up from the floor.
The dark had turned his eyes to milk and sky
and his arms and legs were all one scarlet sore.

He was a boy of maybe three or four.
His straps and chains were all the things he wore.
Knowing I could make him no reply
I took the gag before he could say more

and put it back as tight as it would tie
and locked the door and locked the door and locked the door


The ritual is a great way of opening as it frames the way we approach a lie - as something that requires maintenance. It makes me think of Don Draper in Mad Men constantly working to hide the fact that he isn't who he says he is and removing all traces of evidence(As an aside Don Paterson said that he had been watching Mad Men and one of his conclusions was that Don was the one person everyone wished they were - I completely disagree but that is another rant).

I particularly like the fact that the lie is a child, because it shows a sense of innocence. In all honesty it is we that confer importance, whether white or dread, upon a lie and is meaningless and unknowing in itself which makes it seem all the more fitting.

The fact that it questions him, perhaps a metaphor for the why our lies question our identity. Why do we feel a need to support the lie? What does it tell us about ourselves? What we need to hide or more importantly protect? But then again the point we often don't attempt to confront the lie we hide from it and lock the door and lock the door and lock the door.

The final line that is ace with its furious repetition, like scouring skin with soap until it is raw to get some unseen dirt out. It also manages to maintain the rhyme scheme which I am pretending isn't there...

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