Atheist Prayer

Don Paterson

after Miguel de Unamuno

Hear my prayer, O non-existent God,accept these cries into thy nothingness,thou, who never leaves poor men unblessedby your false comfort. Your perfect fraudwas all I ever yearned for, my old friend:when you withdraw, my memory is assailedby every silly song and fairy talemy mother read to sweeten the day's end.How great you are, my absent god! So rareand boundless, an idea less than air:O look how very thin the world has grownin trying to meet you. For you and you aloneI suffer, Lord; for you, I die and die —since were you to exist... Then so might I.

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Don Paterson is the author of numerous works of poetry and non-fiction; his writing has won many awards, including the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, all three Forward Prizes, and the T. S. Eliot Prize on two occasions. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2009; he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the English Association and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and for many years taught at the University of St. Andrews, where he is now Emeritus Professor of Poetry in the School of English. From 1997 to 2022, Paterson was poetry editor at Picador. For most of his life he has also worked as a jazz musician and composer. He lives in Kirriemuir, Scotland.

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"Dynamic, interrogative and unsettling; crafted yet open-ended; fiercely smart, savage and stirring - from the get-go, Paterson's poetry has been essential reading."

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