Jack Ross, ed.: brief 29 (April 2004)
Alistair Paterson, Summer on the Côte d’Azur. Wellington: HeadworX, 2003. ISBN 0-473-098024-4. 80 pp. RRP $19.95.
Alistair Paterson: Summer on the Côte d’Azur (2003)
It’s strange that the word which kept coming to mind as I read these poems was “sweet.” I know that it’s become a disparaging term: a synonym for meretricious, saccharine, sentimental, but there’s a kind of luminous honesty and simplicity in the best of the poems included here which nevertheless seems to call for it. The blurb emphasises meetings with the famous, experiments in post-modernism, but what’s notable inside is the lack of weight Paterson ascribes to such transient phenomena. Howard Nemerov was “puzzled I was there (it showed though you tried to conceal it)” , and the poem’s emphasis swiftly shifts from a conversation about “what it was like to be famous – / & a well-paid poet in America” to the colours, the (imaginary) music, the luminous (I can’t avoid that word) nature of this peculiar memory. “Sharp, bright, particular”  – these are indeed the characteristics of Paterson’s small book. They perhaps show at their best in “Remarkable:”
the way sparrows
“… & remarkable / how the earth spins––” . It is remarkable. The book is beautifully printed, also, and the very precise nature of font and layout help to emphasise this gem-like precision, these polished shards and facets of a poet’s mind.