The Poem attempts to answer several questions: what is a poem? In what way is its use of language distinct? What conditions allow it to arise, and what is its cultural purpose? And how, exactly, do poems work? Part polemic, part technical treatise and part meditation, The Poem is an ambitious contemporary ars poetica. Paterson looks at the writing, transmission and reading of poetry with wit and scholarly flair, drawing together literary analysis, linguistics, metaphysics, psychology and cognitive science in a thorough exploration of how and why poems are composed.
The Poem takes the form of three long essays. ‘Lyric’ attends to the music and sound patterns of poetry, and the way in which they work to deepen poetic sense; ‘Sign’ develops a new theory of metaphor, metonym and symbol, and looks at how ideas of ‘meaning’ change under poetic conditions; ‘Metre’ addresses poetry’s relationship to time and to the rhythms of speech, then builds a theory of prosody from the ground up, proposing some radical correctives to existing metrical theory along the way.
Through his various professional guises – as major prize-winning poet, as Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews and as Poetry Editor at Picador Macmillan – few are better placed to grant this insider’s perspective. For all those intrigued by the inner workings of the art form and its fundamental secrets, The Poem will challenge, intrigue and surprise.