side blog — The Rictus Flag

Keston Sutherland

There is something about the poetry in The Rictus Flag that convinces me this poet has the potential to be one of the greats. It’s the way he uses language to slap you, like hot water thrown on your face wakes you. His primary subject matter is sex and gender, lust and love, and he is down to earth, blunt, male, a subject as erudite as a sausage. Yet he writes in a fresh way; his language is erudite, exciting.

From “Extreme Sweet”:

Passengers on the London train
out the window gravel and paint
tired. Sex is disclosed you took
up the converted hamper flipping
its pointless lock open. I can’t sit
and long desperately for you alone.

But there’s a lot more here; themes of death, travel and politics; undertones that occasionally sneak into full attention. Consider one, the politics: this guy is politically aware, he's from the global left and the world’s injustices hurt him. I don’t agree with his apparent monochrome politics, but I do strongly believe that politics and poetry are a necessary mix; if you don’t understand the arational emotion behind a political belief then you’re never going to deal with it effectively, or oppose it effectively, or work with it effectively; and what better way is there to communicate this than poetry?

I must make a confession. It took me sometime after getting hold of this chapbook to connect with the poetry at all. My instincts told me there was something magnificent here, but the language didn’t talk to me. I attended a recital at the Whitechapel Arts Gallery, which was useful, but it didn’t give the break. It’s only now, three months later, that I’ve come back to these poems and grasped them. My neurons have rerouted (<grin>).

It is very clear there is a lot more to this poetry that I have discovered and reported. This is complex stuff, and I’ll have to revisit it many times. That’s good.

From the death led “Ode: What You Do” (Part 4):

Some cops boo. Evidently run about pin
airbag down make a ripped off picket
stunned. If you want to change the

tick alright. Everyone’s so—lymphatic
drainage from a primary lust for, tends
to, agrees with, makes a stab at

wouldn’t if you, swigs sickeningly that
drainage call it a gab.

If those first three words don’t bite you, we live on different planets.


The Rictus Flag
Keston Sutherland
Object Permanence
2002
ISBN 1 903488 16 8