FOR centuries poets have been inspired by long-distance passion to produce some of their finest work.
But a modern twist on the theme of unrequited love yesterday delivered a top poetry award to Scotland's Don Paterson.
His tongue-in-cheek tale of longing for an eastern European techno musician, Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja' Beridze, won the coveted Forward Prize for best single poem.
The work, laced with electronic music jargon, is based on the results of Google searches on a sultry Georgian singer and music producer he has never met. He found the singer through fanzines on techno and electronic music.
"O who is this dark angel with her unruly Slavic eyebrows ranged like duelling pistols, lightly sweating in the pale light of the TTF screen?" he writes.
Collecting the 1,000 prize, Paterson, 44, called the work a jeu d'esprit – a witty comment rather than a serious poem.
Paterson said: "It was an exercise in writing a poem about music. I'm one of those sad guys who likes post-techno and electronic music. I listen to too much of that stuff so I thought I would get it out of my system. She's fairly obscure."
Of her music, he said: "I'm a biased critic, but I think it's great."
Frieda Hughes, the judges' chairwoman, said: "These are fabulously wrought lines of devotion from a benevolent stalker who should be given free concert tickets for life.
"No poet can possibly have done more to elevate our awareness of a pop star or the benefits of Google as Don Paterson does.
"I did 'Google' Natalie, and she does exist – interesting music too. This is an impassioned love poem for a distant idol."
But Paterson said Ms Beridze was definitely not his poetic muse. "I don't think my partner would approve of that," he added. "I'm in a stable relationship."
Ms Beridze's songs range from soothing and soft to occasional brutal blitzes of sound. Her image and music can be easily found on YouTube.
The 25-year-old from Tbilisi is a member of a Georgian art laboratory named Goslab, and merges visual arts and songs. Her influences range from the Smiths to David Bowie, Stravinsky and Georgian folk music.
Paterson writes how her "biographical details are extremely hazy". But on learning that she was married to Thomas Brinkmann, who runs the singer's record label, the poet dismisses her husband's recordings as: "boring – an opinion I held long before love carried me away".
Paterson, a reviewer and editor, has won UK awards such as the Whitbread and the TS Eliot prizes for his collections.
The Forward prizes were unveiled for National Poetry Day today, celebrated in Scotland with events such as a poetry workshop in Edinburgh for expectant mothers.
Another Scottish poet, Mick Imlah, won the 10,000 Forward Prize for best collection with The Lost Leader, his first collection for 20 years.
Excerpts from 'Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja' Beridze'
O who is this dark angel with her unruly Slavic eyebrows ranged like two duelling pistols, lightly sweating in the pale light of the TTF screen?
O behold her shaded, infolded concentration, her heartbreakingly
beautiful face so clearly betraying the true focus of one not merely
content -–as, no doubt, were others at the Manver Elektronische Festival in Wien –
to hit play while making some fraudulent correction to a volume slider
but instead deep in the manipulation of some complex real-time software such as Ableton Live, MAX/MSP or Supercollider.
I have also deduced from your staggeringly ingenious employment of some pretty basic wavetables
that unlike many of your East European counterparts, all your VST plug-ins, while not perhaps the best available
probably all have a legitimate upgrade path – indeed I imagine your
entire DAW as pure as the driven snow, and not in any way buggy or virusy
which makes me love you more, demonstrating as it does an excess of
virtue given your country's well-known talent for software piracy.
O Natalie – I forgive you everything, even your catastrophic
adaptation of those lines from "Dylan's" already sh***
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
in the otherwise magnificent 'Sleepwalkers', and when you open up those low-
pass filters in what sounds like a Minimoog emulation they seem to
open in my heart also.