Why Do You Stay Up So Late? Don Paterson – an Analysis


A tribal call to my little insomniac soul…

Gut Reaction
I really like it, so simply worded and yet so easy to make a picture out of. Although. Not sure how I feel about the American spelling from a Scot…

What does it all mean?
He’s trying to see beauty – the good stuff – in the mundane?

I’ll tell you, if you really want to know:
Someone’s asking why he can’t sleep? What’s on his mind?

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.

This doesn’t feel like it even needs analysing, a little short story used by the writer to set the scene. He’s talking to someone he knows well; a former lover perhaps? Someone he has remained friends with?

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—

He’s trying to make the best of a situation; trying to find positives in what feels like negatives. He can’t tell when they are happening if they are good or bad things – blessings in disguise? (‘which have the surprise’).

(and I’ve no pool to help me tell—)
He doesn’t have her ability or wisdom of telling good from bad?

so I look at them and look at them until
one thing makes a mirror in my eyes

So he ponders on them and puzzles over them until he sees something good?

then I paint it with the tear to make it bright.
When he finds something good, positive, happy, it makes him cry – with happiness? Relief? Renewed faith in the world? And this cements it in his memory (‘paint’)?

This is why I sit up through the night.
He stays awake all night, overthinking his world, his day, his life?

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
2 stanzas each of 8 lines of iambic pentameter.

Sad, hopeful?

Suggested rhyme scheme

Italicised letters show partial rhyme, most is full rhyme.
Masculine rhyme takes precedence, end stopped and run on lines throughout.

Similes and metaphors
Paint it with the tear – cry?

Author’s relationship with their subject
This feels like he is trying to get them to see him, to understand his thoughts?

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
I can’t see much in the way of analysis out there but there is a lot of praise, and you can see why. Talented writer, witty, doesn’t appear to be afraid of honesty or laughing at himself. Intriguing, must know more.
And he’s written something called The Land Of Cakes. Say no more (yes… I know.. Land of Cakes = Scotland. Indulge me.)

Signing off
I love this! What an incredible find, I want to read all his stuff, right now.
Me and my need to tell a little story, here goes:
The writer is sat in a cafe with his former girlfriend. They split up because he was insecure, he loved her but he was too messed up to be a good boyfriend.
She is a good ‘un, someone he shouldn’t have let go, and she is good enough to stay his friend.
He looks tired, she knows he isn’t sleeping well, so she asks why.
He looks at her, wipes a tired hand over his eyes and stubbled chin, and says, hey, remember when we took that little day trip and you sat with all those pebbles?
She says, yes, of course, it was a great day.
And he says, well, that’s what I am trying to do now, with my life. Trying to look at all this shit around me and work out what is good, what is bad. Keeps me up all night. Especially trying to find positives in negative things that have happened. Like losing you.
And there’s a look between them that says it all.
And… I need to get a grip on myself. Since when did I turn into such a soppy, romantic fool? Fool, yes, that’s always been there but the other stuff… What’s happened??!!

Don Paterson

Don Paterson

Poetry recital review

Independent – my secret life

When I read this I think of the song… Nightswimming


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