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Michael Sutton

Sometimes a blank page is not as it appears. It might be the reverse of a page full of symbols. If the page is thin enough, you can make out all the inky details underneath, and the blank page becomes a faint reflection of its printed side. My Poem Brut commission began with me tracing the marks on these page-reflections –  mirrors of musical notation  –  and following the errors of my unsteady hand, diverging from the guide. I became interested in the idea of making music-as-poetry, recreating one art in the form of another. This task forced me to consider the ineffability of all things. I interact with concepts (monarchy, market economy, time/memory, language, God), I understand them on a superficial level, but am unable to decipher their total essences. My infinite bewilderment is recorded in pseudo-song-form in the book music/lyrics, forthcoming from Hesterglock Press.

I feel like when people say ‘I love the English language’, they’re really saying ‘I love the language I happen to speak’. It’s no surprise that monolinguists express a preference for their mother tongue; it’s the only one they know. Linguistic imperialism has led to the extinction of hundreds of languages; around four hundred over the past century alone. One of the most vital responses to this pernicious erasure is for writers to reclaim and write in endangered languages, an action charted in Poems from the Edge of Extinction, edited by Chris McCabe. But I think it also follows for artists to create new languages, if only as a motion against this eradication. This is what I try to do in music/lyrics, creating musical languages, logographic-like languages, faux languages based on the anglicisations of other, older languages. In a sense, there is only one human language of many different strands. The limits of language are (to paraphrase Wittgenstein) the limits of our world, so I plan to research this topic further and attempt to extend the boundaries.


Michael Sutton is a writer and artist based in Liverpool. His work has appeared internationally in various journals and anthologies. He also writes essays and reviews for Neon Books and The State of the Arts. His poetry collection ‘music/lyrics’ is published by Hesterglock Press. He is the winner of the 2019 Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize.