Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Festival Laureate Don Praises Great Writers; Festival Laureate Don Paterson Tells DAVID WHETSTONE of the Debt He Owes to One of the North East's Most Brilliant Writers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Festival Laureate Don Praises Great Writers; Festival Laureate Don Paterson Tells DAVID WHETSTONE of the Debt He Owes to One of the North East's Most Brilliant Writers

Article excerpt

MORE than just a literary figure passing through, the poet Don Paterson will be lingering in Durham as this year's Festival Laureate.

The Laureateship is bestowed each year on a writer deemed to be a bit special. It also supports the commissioning of new work.

The fruits of this will be revealed most clearly when the Scottish poet's new anthem is performed in Durham Cathedral at evensong on October 21.

It will be a world premiere - words by Don Paterson and music by composer Chris Totney.

So what conventions of rhyme, metre and subject matter are anthems subject to? It's not often you meet someone who specialises in the form.

"My initial approach was that it gives you completely free rein," confesses the poet, venturing into the anthemic world for the first time.

"But then I learned there were some restrictions and that anthems do have a particular length and metre."

He went back to the drawing board and was happier with his second effort.

"It's not something that comes up much so I hope it will come up again. It's lovely to be writing something that will be performed in a place like Durham Cathedral."

One thing he always knew was that it would be sung by a choir so that brought certain cadences to the fore.

At the time of our chat, the poetic paint was barely dry. "I've got the sheet music so I can whistle it," says the Festival Laureate, who was born in Dundee in 1963. "I've sung it a bit in the bathroom."

The world tends to know Don Paterson primarily as a poet. He is professor of poetry at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and has taught there in its School of English since 2002.

His poetry is widely admired and respected. It has earned him the Forward Prize for best first collection, the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and, twice, the TS Eliot Prize.

Rain, his latest compelling collection of poems, won the 2009 Forward Prize for best collection. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was awarded an OBE in 2008 and, last year, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. But he started out as a musician. …

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