review: ‘The Fall at Home’

I reviewed Don Paterson’s The Fall at Home: New and Collected Aphorisms for the Poetry School. Thanks are due there for taking a punt on what is ultimately not-actually-even-poetry. What exactly aphorisms are is still not clear to me, but I’ve enjoyed trying to work it out. I do think more people would enjoy them if they knew more about them.

I side step the ‘social media’ question in the review, because I think it is a red herring if you’re trying to introduce the form for what may be some people’s first time. But clearly there is an audience out there for short, pithy pieces of wisdom/trickery.

The main obstacle I can see to aphorisms ever becoming popular is that, like Paterson says, they are intended to be momentary. They are both incredibly serious (about what we want and what it is we think we believe) and yet, at their best, don’t take themselves seriously at all.

By contrast, one of the most notable things about so-called ‘Instapoetry’, and social media generally, is its earnestness. This is peculiar when you consider how ephemeral the online world is. To bastardize Paterson’s definition, if an aphorism transforms convictions into fleeting thoughts, social media transforms fleeting thoughts into convictions.

In (even) more accessible news, I have a poem in the new Emma Press children’s anthology, ‘Dragons of the Prime’, edited by Richard O’Brien. They’re a great publisher and it’s a brilliant little book which comes at dinosaurs from all kinds of angles. Mine is on going extinct, and what happens next. 

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