Hi this is Ross Sutherland! The poet. Not to be mistaken for Ross Sutherland the rugby team.
In fact there are quite a few other Ross Sutherlands. I follow their activity closely. To begin with, I did it by accident (mostly searching for my own name on Twitter). Then I began to follow them deliberately. It’s hard to separate my name from my ego- I can’t help but imagine that these Ross Sutherlands are other versions of me, almost as if I reached a crossroads and split myself onto parallel timelines. One of me became a pastor in Australia. Another version became this guy. The dullness of a name hides multitudes.
This is similar to the thought that starts “Nude III”. My university (UEA in Norwich) was one of three identical buildings, made by the same architect. All three are brick-for-brick identical- what else connects those buildings?
Nude III was part of a sequence of twelve poems. I was interested in re-imagining the concept of ‘the nude’ in art. The nude is often used as a metaphor for the paradox of ‘writing honestly’. I wanted to suggest that “the more layers we remove, the more complicated an object becomes.” – we do not reach a pure, natural centre, but something denser, more difficult.
To quote myself from ‘Nude I’:
A teacher once told me that poetry aspires
to the simplicity of the nude.
To be naked, he said, was to speak without footnotes.
Though in my opinion a naked person
usually has more explaining to do than anyone.
The first poem of the sequence was about a nude person, but after that, the sequence begins to drift off to imagine other nude objects/scenes: an audience, a hospital, a skyscraper, etc, all with their ‘outer layer’ removed. Nude III was my attempt to apply this process to my old university. To try and see what is going on beneath the surface.
The subject of the poem is the university itself. I’ve tried to imagine the university as if it was a person (or more accurately, a brain). The small scenes that I included were supposed to feel a little like ‘dreams’ – small memories, floating down the empty halls.
But these little thoughts don’t add up to a whole. There’s no message to be gleamed from the end, except for a sense of pleasant disintegration. Once the surface/purpose of the university is removed, the people inside it become lost, pointless, dreamlike.
This sequence of poems was really inspired by David Berman. In particular, The Charm of 5:30. I’ve aped Berman’s style a lot here. I love the type of world that Berman creates. Sometimes it feels like he’s just freewheeling lines from his notebook, but then I think -so what? A poem doesn’t have to go somewhere. It just has to exist, in a singular moment, and own that feeling.
If you’ve got any thoughts about this poem, I’d love to hear them! I’m here for the good and the bad