Poetry in the Age of Superior Television Drama: A Review of Don Paterson’s Zonal

Zonal
by Don Paterson
(Faber & Faber, 2020, 64 pp. £14.99)

What does poetry do? What place does it have in the early 21st century anglophone world, this “age,” as Don Paterson puts it, “of superior television drama”? What singular function might it serve as distinct from, say, those other superior amusements of videogames, jazz, podcasts, World Cup soccer, graphic narratives, or haute cuisine? As a major stylistic departure from Paterson’s previous collections of concise, formally assured, and more generically traditional lyrics, Zonal insists readers at least recognize that such hulking ontological questions are being entertained.