A poem for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day and in celebration I’d like to share one of my favourite poems from Don Paterson.


Don Paterson is Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrew and the author of seven books of poetry. He has twice won both the Whitbread/ Costa Poetry Prize and the TS Eliot Prize, along with a number of other awards including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, all three Forward Prizes (1994, 2009, 2010) and a Cholmondeley Award. He received the OBE in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010.

Not content with all that, Paterson has also written for radio and stage, has been video games reviewer for the Times and is also an acclaimed jazz musician and composer.

For me, this poem Why Do You Stay Up So Late? perfectly encapsulates what I imagine it means to be a poet.


Why Do You Stay Up So Late

For Russ

 I’ll tell you, if you really want to know:

remember that day you lost two years ago

at the rockpool where you sat and played the jeweler

with all those stones you’d stolen from the shore?

Most of them went dark and nothing more,

but sometimes one would blink the secret color

it had locked up somewhere in its stony sleep.

This is how you knew the ones to keep.


So I collect the dull things of the day

in which I see some possibility

but which are dead and which have the surprise

I don’t know, and I’ve no pool to help me tell—

so I look at them and look at them until

one thing makes a mirror in my eyes

then I paint it with the tear to make it bright.

This is why I sit up through the night.




Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

12 Comments Leave a comment

  1. That’s beautiful. I often think about such everyday moments and wonder if writing about them might just make them beautiful, or at least bearable. I read Paterson’s 40 Sonnets back in 2015. Thanks for the reminder that it’s Poetry Day — I’d better be sure to take the time to read some!


  2. Lovely poem! I’m going to try tonight to find something in my day that deserves a poem. Mind you, since the most exciting thing I did was go to Sainsbury’s it will be hard…


  3. What a first line, inviting us into his circle straight off: I love that. He’s “new” to me, but I will have a look for more: thanks for the rec!


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