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Allan Sutherland’s blog charts the progress of working on his first collection of poetry, Leaning On A Lamppost. The collection will give an overview of his work, including 20 years of performance, his more recent pioneering work in transcription poetry, found poems and a set of new work responding to his mentoring by John O’Donoghue.

Musings on the subject of PEG limericks

18 May 2015


book of Shakespeare sonnets open at page 18

In my last post I mentioned the difficulty of finding a rhyme for ‘percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy’. I was subsequently challenged, by the Miriam Rothschild Chair of Environmental Biology at the University of Cambridge, also known as my brother Bill,  to produce a limerick on the subject. I believe he thought I would not be up to the task. It is part of the role of an elder brother to provide an appropriate response to such insubordination. Hence the following (which may,...

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Back in Harness...

1 April 2015


La Belle Dame Sans Merci is recovering rapidly.  She is currently being weaned off a tracheostomy, a process I shall probably not write poetry about just because it’s so difficult to find a rhyme.  (This is a problem I’ve encountered before in trying to write about disability issues. My series of short poems about charitable organisations for disabled people came to a halt over the impossibility of rhyming ‘Blind and Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association’...

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3 February 2015


I must apologise for my lack of new posts since before Christmas.   My partner has been in Intensive Care since New Year’s Day.  John and I have agreed to suspend the mentoring process until I have a bit less on my mind.   Perhaps some work will come out of this.  There’s certainly been plenty to write about: the long wait until five in the morning outside the resuscitation unit in A and E; the conversations with doctors anxious to explain the potential future;...

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Imposing of a Pattern on Experience

30 November 2014


‘Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.’  Alfred North Whitehead One of John’s more surprising suggestions was that  ‘Tattoo’, a poem from ‘Paddy: A Life’  could be turned into a pattern poem. I’ve know George Herbert’s work since I studied the Metaphysical poets for O Level, so I am familiar with pieces such as ‘Easter wings’...

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Found Poetry? No shit!

24 November 2014


I talked in my last post about my found poems from NHS materials. To be honest, part of the pleasure of this to me has been that I do like the dark attraction of medical materials.  I enjoy old surgical textbooks with the frontispiece illustrations where you can fold back the skin to reveal the muscular structure underneath, and continue to reveal layer on layer of meticulously drawn anatomical detail.  And when my partner and I visited Paris, the place I was most insistent on...

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Turning the Tables

18 November 2014


Found poetry is the literary equivalent of collage. It takes pre-existing materials, generally ones which would not be seen to possess artistic merit, and uses the techniques of poetry to create fresh new works from apparently unpromising sources. I have always enjoyed this process. In my student days I used to improvise live readings from the telephone directory. (Younger readers: ask your grandparents what that was.)  That was partly about satirising the pomposity of a certain style...

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Hey-diddle-diddle, the nursery rhyme riddle

10 November 2014


One poem that John picked up on was the pastiche ‘Mary had a wheelchair’, a little poem about disability access: Mary had a wheelchair It rolled across the floor. And everywhere that Mary went She couldn’t get in the door. I may have underestimated this poem. In live performance I use it to follow ‘What happens to old epileptics?’.  Being the darkest poem I read live, all about drowning in the bath and the like, it tends to leave audiences a little...

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Rhyme and No Good Reason

4 November 2014


stacks of black and white books with a sepia tint

One of the things John first picked up on about my existing work was my liking for strict versification. Where possible, I like to write poems that have strict metre and rhyme, as in ‘Bite the Hand that Feeds You’ (‘Frank is a nice boy/He never makes a fuss’/Frank spends all his time at home/He can’t get on the bus’). John suggested I should read Charles Causley. Causley was a twentieth Century Cornish poet, best known for ‘Timothy Winters’,...

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Turning and overturning

26 October 2014


digital image of a open book pictured against a background of a pile of books

The late Dennis Potter once put forward the idea that each writer has their own field to plough. The nature of that field is determined by who we are - what lives we have lived, what we feel strongly about, what resonates for us. The process of writing is about continuing to find new ways turn that soil over and produce work that is fresh and exciting. For me that territory has long been about disability.  I have wanted to speak out about my own experiences of epilepsy.  I also...

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To Begin at the Beginning...

17 October 2014


I am currently being mentored by John O’Donoghue to produce my first collection of poems, ‘Leaning on a Lamppost’.  I’m editing existing material and producing new work, and I’ll be blogging about the process.  It’s perhaps a surprise that I haven’t done any of this previously. I’ve been a mentor (to Colin Hambrook, now Editor of DAO - so that went alright) but never been mentored myself.  I’ve been blogged about, but never...

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