Ross Sutherland launches Street Fighter sonnets on National Poetry Day

Blog / Tom Chivers

Today, Thursday 6 October, is National Poetry Day and in response to this year’s theme of Games, the mercurial poet, performer and filmmaker Ross Sutherland is launching his new sonnet sequence Hyakuretsu Kyaku as a free digital download. Ross has playfully recast the characters from cult video game Street Fighter 2 as “twelve heroes that […]

Today, Thursday 6 October, is National Poetry Day and in response to this year’s theme of Games, the mercurial poet, performer and filmmaker Ross Sutherland is launching his new sonnet sequence Hyakuretsu Kyaku as a free digital download. Ross has playfully recast the characters from cult video game Street Fighter 2 as “twelve heroes that span the breadth of the human condition.”

From Zangief, a Russian wrestler fighting for a crumbling republic; to Chun Li, an Interpol agent determined to avenge her father’s murder; to Dhalsim, the yogic soothsayer who has channelled his spiritual enlightenment into the power of being really bendy.

Combining the mythic with the mundane, this is poetry for anyone who’s ever screamed “Hadouken” or tried out the Hundred Hand Slap on their little brother. Each poem is accompanied by specially commissioned artwork from leading designers and illustrators.

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Interview with Ross

Why Street Fighter 2?

It has a large cast of well-known characters, and overlaps with a lot of different cultures. There’s a Russian wrestler, a yogic soothsayer, a Catalonian bullfighter, a Chinese Interpol agent. Once you start picking away at these characters, there’s loads of fun back-story to them.

Part of the motivation came from a hang-up I had about referencing Greek mythology in poetry. I liked the idea of borrowing mythology from other cultures, but whenever I tried to reference the Classics in my work it sounded clichéd and awful. Street Fighter 2 was a way of finding a new mythology that I could work on from scratch.

Why sonnets?

The sonnet is a traditional form, which links to the whole Classics thing. Also, sonnets are like little puzzles. You’re given all these strict rules, and you have to have to try to write your way free again. They’re games of their own.

Why National Poetry Day?

I like National Poetry Day. It’s the one day every year I am guaranteed to get a gig. And if it encourages more people to read poetry, all the better.

The theme of Games really chimes with my own ideas about how poetry should be read, taught and written. Sometimes people forget that poetry is all about play. You break all the normal rules of language and invent your own. Once you’ve set the rules, you just let the game run and see what comes out the far side.

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