OBOE by James Sutherland-Smith

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Competent But Unfitted
The splendid landscape in an instrument, join British poet James Sutherland-Smith to share his imagination.
Photo by Hal Gatewood

Submitted: May 22, 2020

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 22, 2020





The creak of a washing line

rubbing on the pole it’s tied to

or the keening of wind

shifting paper down alleyways,

air amplified in a coppice

as it is squeezed between branches

to a soft wail – pinched, nasal, plaintive,

the sound of pain suppressed

in domesticated England,

relic of a grief,

once massive as Siberia,

made into a noise a man might hear

within his head when he has lost his love,

diminishing perhaps

to good manners, a graceful skirl

over the surface of a stream

or else escaping from the mesh

of cultivated leaf and twig

to the bitterness of air round stone;

grief unhampered, unappeased,

the ghost of love without object,

without resting place.


Image may contain: James Sutherland-Smith, smiling


JAMES SUTHERLAND-SMITH was born in Scotland, but lives in Slovakia. He has published seven collections of his own poetry, the most recent being “The River and the Black Cat” published by Shearsman Books in 2018. He also translates poetry from Slovak and Serbian for which he has received the Slovak Hviezdoslav Prize and the Serbian Zlatko Krasni Prize.

His most recent translation is from the poetry of Mila Haugová, Eternal Traffic, published in Britain by Arc Publications in 2020.

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