I am pleased to introduce this month’s poet: Judi Sutherland. We met as poets on Facebook a few years ago and I attended a recent online event where she read her poems.
Judi Sutherland has lived and worked all over England and is now based in North County Dublin, Ireland. She writes about the natural world, about home, place and belonging, and things she reads on the internet. She obtained an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2012 and was awarded the Margaret Hewson Prize.
Her first pamphlet The Ship Owner’s House was published in 2018 by Vane Women Press (available here: The Ship Owner’s House by Judi Sutherland – The Poetry Book Society) and focuses on north south contrasts, specifically Oxfordshire and County Durham. Vane Women Press is a writing, performing and publishing collective based in the North East of England. It was formed in 1991.
A recent booklet Animals in Lockdown was published as a hand-made edition by Kazvina (Karen Little). Copies can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org, and proceeds go to Happy Tails Halfway Home animal rescue.
Here is my selection: the booklet’s title poem and three poems from The Ship Owner’s House.
The Animals in Lockdown
The mountain goats have noticed something’s wrong.
Their anxious hooves trot into town
tap-tapping on our tarmac. They’ve come to browse
verges and hedges, keeping down
the wildness, which they know distresses us.
In clearwater harbours, dolphins nose
the prows of empty boats drifting at anchor.
Songbirds note the silence in the air.
A fox sniffs for contagion, scenting only spring,
he knows we’ve gone to earth. He has
mixed feelings about this. The dogs
who shepherd us on our permitted walks
leave smell-messages for each other, asking
‘Lads, what’s going on?’ And here at home,
my cat tucks me into bed each night, checking that I’m safe.
All through the night, she listens for my breathing.
Looking for Kites
I went over to Kinninvie
because I had heard you were there.
I took the straight, whitelined road
that wagtails across the fells.
There were sheep, carpet-backed, in a row
ripping grass, and mottled cattle,
cream and brown like chocolate truffles
tilting their long horns at the sky.
A hawk held steady over a whin bush
and I thought I saw you eddy into the wind
over a broad, shouldering field.
When I turned homewards, the valley
was bright with gorse and rapeseed flowers
and sunshine flooded the far slopes
Certain fears can be inherited through the generations, a provocative study of mice reports. The authors suggest that a similar phenomenon could influence anxiety and addiction in humans.
And what scented his fear was this:
the fleet chill of clear air rushing,
the flap of canvas, the propeller’s
halting stutter. Hanging suspended
between sky and Crete, and the silver-drab
of olive trees reaching up to meet him.
I still dream that flight and plunge,
the terror and the black; feel the dull
indentation of the skull, the buzz of metal plates
beneath my scalp. I’m always writing Icarus;
afraid to fall, finding life vertiginous.
He very nearly died. I very nearly remember.
So, the place I thought was home turned out to be
somewhere we were passing through, and we
have traded all the grey, red, cream of flint,
brick, render, for this buttered stone;
beechwoods for bare hills, accents clipped like lawns
for vowels as broad as fells. The green-spined lane
became a hard grey road, the kites are hawks,
and the placid boating river is a rocky fall
past a castle keep. Life pitches our tent
in a different portion of the desert. We make it ours.
I can no longer tell you where my heart is.