‘I could see myself as the dog-collared focus of a vast, rapt stadium.’
Photograph: David Sillitoe
My other life: Don Paterson
The poet reveals his boyhood dream: to be a preacher
Sunday 20 December 2009
was a small, fat boy in a kilt with, as I saw it, limited career options. Something in show business seemed about right. Half-human, half-traybake I may have been, but I was still keen to impress. My opportunities were few and my models fewer, but I had Sunday school, and my grandfather. He was a minister in the United Free Church of Scotland. Standing up and telling everyone how to behave seemed like a grand job. And – how cool is this – they had to call you Reverend. So I taught myself to recite the names of all the books of the Bible. The old dears who read us boring stories in the windy North Halls found this trick devastatingly precocious and declared me a shoo-in for the ministry.
Figuring that the speed of my delivery would be directly proportional to its impact, I got faster and faster, and trained with a stopwatch. I could see myself as the dog-collared focus of a vast, rapt stadium, where I'd rattle the books off so fast the big ladies would swoon at the miracle of it.
Alas, this turned out to be much less impressive than I'd hoped, especially to women, though it took me several years to accept the fact. I should say that, blissfully, God figured nowhere in this, even as an afterthought.
Don Paterson's latest collection, Rain, winner of the 2009 Forward prize for poetry, is published by Faber