'The Arctic' in Don Paterson's powerful new collection is the name of a bar frequented by the survivors of several kinds of apocalypse. The poems gathered here are as various as the clientele: elegies for the poet's musician father; tales of the love lives of gods and the childhoods of psychopaths; troubled encounters between men and women; odes to movies and the male anatomy; studies of art and ambition, politics and parenthood. Other voices enter the fray in renderings of Cavafy, Montale and the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.
And in the fourth part of Paterson's ongoing poem 'The Alexandrian Library', the poet-as-amateur scientist - from a weather station at the top of Ben Nevis to the cellar of The Arctic - bears witness to the imminence of man-made extinction. By turns urgent, railing and tender, these are poems of and for our times, by one of our most celebrated and formally adventurous writers.