The idea of the collection – which sounds barmy at first – is of the midlife crisis as a permanent state of mind, akin to being marooned on some godawful planet where your other half is likely, at least some of the time, to be an alien. This, I thought, after taking a brief look at the poems, has to be self-indulgent baloney. But as soon as I settled down to read these poems properly, I felt different: I love the collection’s minutely wrought originality and the way that even dismaying subjects – loneliness, insecurity, botched relationships – have hilarious side-effects. The book made me laugh aloud. It is bracing to see Paterson – a dab hand at form (40 Sonnets won the 2015 Costa poetry prize) – returning with eloquence and vim to rhythms of speech. And it is worth adding that, although The Twilight Zone is brilliant, you need not be acquainted with it to enjoy the poems: they speak for themselves.
You do not have to be an aficionado of The Twilight Zone to “get” Paterson’s book, although for those of us who are, it is a super-sized Easter egg chock-full of winks, raised eyebrows, glances and clever re-tunings. Formally, the poems are something of a divergence from his rather more tightly structured previous work. Here, the lines extend with a kind of hectic abandon, so much so that they feel like behind yarned to by an exceptionally loquacious individual.