Eleven Maxims from the Book of Ill-Humour

Don Paterson

Eleven Maxims from the Book of Ill-Humour

Read a poem slow enough
With vigilance and care
And you’ll discover lots of stuff
that simply isn’t there

In the country of the two-eyed, it’s the same:
The one-eye’d man still has the better aim.

On his deathbed, much too late, a voice came from afar
And sang that line he’d once heard in a film, or in a bar:
No one will ever love you for everything you are

And then did God make man and woman – bless! –
For company. Ironic, wouldn’t you say:
Someone might have told him neediness
Is no one’s most attractive quality.

As a trumpet’s how you toot it
an idea’s how you put it

A poet for a friend?
As far as they’re concerned
all you represent’s
an inconvenience
standing in the way
of a decent elegy

Even in Kyoto, as he said in his haiku,
Bashō was still longing for Kyoto.
But I don’t suppose that Bashō really could’ve had a clue
that all of us are longing for Kyoto.

Poets: if it already has a name,
stop bothering it.

Don’t forget her, son,
heartbroken as you are;
it’s a waste of a good wound
to heal without a scar.

As mass structures space
So death structures time;
Gently, from afar;
But were you to alight
And try to stand upright
Upon its cratered face
You could not tell apart
The ticking and the chime.
The poet takes his pen
And settles down to write
in the fullness of the dawn
like it’s the dead of night.


Don Paterson reads Eleven Maxims From The Book Of Ill-Humour

About This Poet:

Don Paterson

Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. His poetry collections include Landing Light, Rain and 40 Sonnets, as well as versions of Machado (The Eyes) and Rilke (Orpheus); he is also the author of several books of aphorism, the most recently The Fall at Home; his critical writing includes… Read More