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Popeye in Belgrade

James Sutherland Smith

Popeye in Belgrade by James Sutherland Smith
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Categories: 21st Century, War writings
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2008)
£9.95 £8.96
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  • I try to dig the way I’m told,
    But it’s worse than learning Slovak.
    My spade turns a clod of sound.
    A tongue of iron hesitates
    And trembles over it as if
    To separate consonant from
    Consonant, sense from sense.

    I think of winter frost,
    As I dig on so very slowly now,
    Not in English, not in Slovak.

                   from ‘In a Slovak Garden' by James Sutherland Smith
    James Sutherland-Smith has lived and worked in Serbia and Montenegro through the difficult transitions. Old states fragmented and a new Balkan political landscape emerged. He writes, not as an observer, but from within cultures rebuilding after political and social upheaval. Popeye in Belgrade records the aftershocks of those moral and spiritual earthquakes in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. The movements of history play out in private, intimate contexts whose subtleties the poet catches with an ear and eye alert to the nuances of personal and public feeling. Political and social concerns form part of each poem’s texture, as they form part of the invisible fabric of individual lives. Music and the natural world are presences throughout the collection, not as sources of consolation but as expressions of elusive otherness. They persist outside the unstable complexities of human society.


    The Seventies
    Popeye in Belgrade
    Off-Duty in Belgrade
    After a Funeral
    Incident in Novi Sad
    A Dream in Serbia
    A Night of Demons
    The Clouds of Van Oort
    Red Poet
    The Little Fiddler

    At Play
    A Game
    Invitation to a Pig-Killing
    A World of Music
    Fiddler with Card Players
    A Score Settled
    Giant Burdock
    A Dead Mouse
    The First Snow of Christmas

    A Rite of Spring
    Making Hay
    Watching the Weather
    In a Slovak Garden
    Spades and Roses
    A Slovak Christmas Tree
    Screech Owls
    On Not Reading L’Allegro
    The Silences
    Cats and Sparrows
    The Autumn Laundry
    Beyond the Glue Factory
    Killing a Sheep
    The Barbarian Invasions
    Sawston Hall
    The Perfect Haircut
    Stopover in Washington
    Canto for a Romantic Novelist

    We Write the Last Chapter First
    We Meet the Norton Commander
    Places Generals Patton and Montgomery Never Reached
    Lorissa’s Oriental Wiles
    Cathay or Camay?
    Lorissa Reads a Sura
    Room At the Top
    The Norton Commander Intervenes
    Sigman to the Rescue
    A Live Tradition
    Indian Lovesong
    We Look Up at the Heavens
    We Look Out to Sea
    We Look Elsewhere

    Ode from a Nightingale
    To Billie Holiday
    For the End of Time
    Three Sighs at the Guan Pass
    A Scarlatti Sonata and the Golden Mean
    A Middle Aged Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

    Fate Theme
    A Violin Playing in Cairo
    Postcard from Alexandria
    L’Instrument Aquatique
    View of a Double Bass
    Epitaph for a Piano
    A Viola Solo
    To a Cello Player
    Voluntary for the Massacre of the Innocents
    Fantasia for Horns

    To an Eleven-Year-Old Boy Unable to Speak More
    Than Two Words


    James Sutherland-Smith was born in Aberdeen in 1948 and was educated at Leeds University. He set up the first Creative Writing Course in English in Central Europe, using writers from Britain and Ireland. His work as a Peacekeeping Manager enabled him to experience first-hand the difficult era of transition in the ... read more
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