Red Streamers, by Paul Sutherland- reviewed.

Red Streamers, by Paul Sutherland. In his latest collection, this poet confirms his status as one of Britain’s most important and original poets. It comprises a sequence of 124 very short, intense, delicately crafted, haiku-like stanzas: one with two lines followed by a three liner – and so on.

The range of subject matter and poetic styles is deceptively broad. The UK setting (Spurn Head, the Wash, the Trent, Bamburgh, a Whitby trawler, Newark, a Saxon towpath) blends in with the global (J.F.K., Mostar, Afghanistan, Palestine, the plight of refugees). Throughout, the animal kingdom (swallows, dragonflies, blackbird, heron, foxgloves, squirrel, gathered gulls, peacock) is celebrated as is nature (‘deserted tidal pools’, ‘umpteen petals/blush the water’, ‘early moon-fall/against darkness’). But urban scenes are also captured (‘a yellow cab burbles/through city panic’, ‘Back in the city/a drying Blackbird spreads/skeletal wings’, ‘city lights extinguished/sirens scream in each quarter’) and then quickly disappear.

Moreover, the mood-range is also quite wide. There are sensuous, tender stanzas (‘generations in love/round the tied cottage/winter Jasmine’, ‘already in love/cuddling down in their boat – soft words bubble-up’, ‘his and hers pillows/fluffed-up/on a hotel bed’) just as there are subtly expressed political ones (‘a refugee/Ghassan, speaks his name/Palestine’, ‘Bridge at Mostar/re-arches the gorge’).

Some of my favourite stanzas are those that, in just a few, precisely chosen words, convey intriguing narratives. For instance, Sutherland writes: ‘a teenage waitress/clears tables/wiping with both hands’, ‘the chip-shop owner/opens his morning door – black turban in place’, ‘before her first patron/a hair-dresser preens/in polished glass’, ‘her Guide Dog/a woman pursues with shouts/tapping a long stick.’ And there is humour too: ‘O Shit she exclaims/in bridal regalia/at the shutter’s click.’

So Sutherland’s subject matter and moods are constantly moving in totally unpredictable directions, evoking the mystery which lies, after all, at the heart of all poetic creation.

  • Sutherland’s New and Selected Poems (Valley Press, 2017) was judged one of the ten best books of 2017 by the Morning Star. Published by editura.pim in Romania (with a Romanian translation), Red Streamers can only re-affirm Sutherland’s reputation as an innovative, exciting poet internationally.

About Paul Sutherland, the Author of Red Streamers:

Paul Sutherland, Canadian-British poet/writer, in UK, since 1973, has fifteen collections published, editing seven others. He’s founding editor of Dream Catcher a national-international journal in its 38th issue. He runs creative writing workshops and widely performs his poetry in many different venues and locations. Recently he has performed at the Bradford Literature Festival, the Cellar Bards (Wales), The Keep (Guildford), Mansion of the Future (Lincoln), Poetry Society Café (London), Wolds Words Festival (Lincolnshire) and Willowbrook Festival (Oxford) etc. Due to his Islamic connections he often reads at large Sufi events, recently in Tooting. He attends fairs with selling opportunities including Poetry book Fair, York Literature Festival and Wolds Words Festival to name a few. He leads seminars; mentors, runs Writers Retreats and collaborates with musicians, visual artists and calligraphers. Lectures on e.g. Sufi poets and English Literature. He appears in anthologies and journals. Spires and Minarets was published by Sunk Island Publishing and Journeying from Valley Press 2012. He converted to a Sufi Muslim 2004; two poetry books have followed, Poems on the Life of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) 2014, A Sufi Novice in Shaykh Efendi’s Realm, (first pub. In Romania in a bi-lingual book 2014; re-printed in UK 2015) describing his adventures in North Cyprus. He’s won literary awards; a poem of his helped promote Olympics 2012. He has won grants and participated in many projects. He turned freelance 2004. A New and Selected Poems, was re-launched from Valley Press 2017: 384 pages of 45 years of his writing a ‘unique …an unflinching and forensic exploration of a life through language.’ The book was list by PBS for winter 2017 and selected as a choice for The Morning Stars’ books of 2017. The University of Lincoln archives his poetry, prose and criticism. A new collection of PS’s love poems, called Amoretti, has just been published by Dempsey and Windle