Toy Fights: A Boyhood by Don Paterson - review by Suzi Feay

Suzi Feay

Rock and Rhyme

Toy Fights: A Boyhood


Faber & Faber 384pp £16.99

Publishers’ biographies of poets tend to be brief and cursory, amounting to not much more than a list of previous publications. Because ‘the work speaks for itself’, you see. Don Paterson’s 1993 debut, Nil Nil, stated merely that he was born in Dundee in 1963, moved to London in 1984 and won an Eric Gregory Award in 1990. ‘The Ferryman’s Arms’, the first poem, revealed an astounding talent, articulate and formally skilful. The collection, with its pubby invocation of pool-playing (‘A low punch with a wee dab of side, and the black/did the vanishing trick’), also showed him to be part of the laddish, working-class invasion of the scene. Toy Fights allows us to fill in some of the biographical details behind the verse.

Not that this is a year-by-year record. Rather it ranges from first memories (and perhaps even a glimpse of pre-existence) to the time a confused but ardent young musician leaves Scotland for the Big Smoke, having undergone a mental breakdown. Paterson doesn’t even seem to have read many

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend