Hi this is Ross Sutherland, providing some extra notes on my poem “A Second Opinion”.

I think this is one of the most straight-forward poems I submitted! It’s a pretty heavy-handed metaphor, but at the same time, the poem is a pretty useful key to understanding my other poems.

In it, you get the story of a couple going through the ‘biopsy’ of a relationship. The author shows his girlfriend an x-ray of his heart, then begins to wax lyrical about the diagnosis.  The x-ray is full of dark patches, signifying the ‘sickness’ of the relationship, but the author tries to transform each one into an elaborate, pointless metaphor.  Metaphor used as a band-aid on reality.

A lot of my work is about the limitations of language. I’m interested in the places where words break down. Almost all my poems have a moment where the poem breaks down or calls attention to itself – I think I’ve handled the subject with more skill as I’ve got older, but I like this poem because it’s a very simple articulation of that idea.

I can almost hear people shouting “so what? Boring postmodernism 101. Tell us something we don’t know!”

I wrote this poem in the middle of the worst break-up I ever had. For me, it’s not just a piece of literary grist, but a very personal poem as well. In the final couple of lines, I’m trying to grapple with the end of the relationship. Perhaps if this poem wasn’t so personal, I could abandon it. But my life is tied to this poem, whether I like it or not. I’m still learning this lesson- that you can’t use poetry to win the hearts of others. You can only use it to change yourself.

If the x-ray is supposed to symbolise my relationship, what about the light that passes through it? I’ve not really thought about it before. The ‘september light’ coming through the window is the symbol of the outer world. It’s the world I can’t control. At the end of the poem, my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend will exit the house, walk into that white light and vanish. But this same white light is what ‘powers’ the x-ray. The dark parts of the x-ray are the poems I write, the white parts are the space around them. Poems are defined by the space around them. Like the empty gap on the page beneath a poem. But also – the space inside poems. The things you can’t say or can’t control. The space between words. These are the things that shape a poem, just as much as the dark masses of text we produce.


I really liked the Heiner Muller poem, posted by Kristoffer Cornils in response. A lovely poem on a similar subject.  Here’s another favourite of mine: “The Six Times My Heart Broke” by Luke Kennard.

I’m here online to absorb all your misgivings. So whether you loved it / hated it / felt no human emotion whatsoever, let me know through the comment section below.

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