Verses in re-invention

Rahad Abir breezes through street fighter poetry

Ever heard of a mobile poetry emporium? Or, composing a poem in every ten minutes on the titles picked from social sites? I bet you haven’t. You might be aware of Ross, a character found in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Well, here we’re going to talk about a writer/performer, Ross Sutherland, of our time. Once upon a day, at 17, he got an opportunity to perform poetry alongside his hero, the punk-poet John Cooper Clarke. That’s the beginning of his writing career. Born in Edinburgh in 1979, Ross has already had four poetry collections and was included in The Times’ list of Top Ten Literary Stars of 2008. He was on a visit to Bangladesh from the British Council in September last year. Subsequently, he attended an interactive session at the Daily Star Centre, where I had the privilege to meet him. Apart from being a poet, he works as a freelance journalist, teacher and filmmaker. Lately, he has hosted and created a show called Comedian Dies In The Middle Of A Joke. Seemingly, Ross is an all-round writer, resides in Cambridge, even though his chief activities are based in East London.


As I’ve seen Ross, I found him quite intriguing, off the wall, and obviously pioneering. Why not? Imagine a bunch of poets wandering around East London with a ‘poetry takeaway van’; anyone can get to the van and order a poem for some quid, to be written instantly. Another day the writers sit before their laptops, and people from different parts of the world send theme titles through the social network in order to have a poem composed on them, where the maximum time is ten minutes.
On top of that, Ross appears to me as a visual poet/performer. He makes multimedia visuals based on his poems, and performs poetry as well. Poetry, to him, is a real art; an art that should be read, thought and written. A former lecturer in electronic literature at Liverpool John Moore’s University, Ross wonders if computers will ever be able to write poetry. And he ended up making a documentary on his presumption.
The reason for this write-up was, basically, to bring up Ross’ latest collection, e-book, Street Fighter 2. ”Street Fighter II,” Wikipedia says, ”is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time, and the most important fighting game in particular. The release of Street Fighter II in 1991 is often considered a revolutionary moment in the fighting game genre.” After all, this e-published book of 12 sonnets is inspired by Street Fighter 2.
There are a lot of things to write poetry about. Why on earth video games? A self-explanation comes in the preface from video game geek Ross: ”I’ve never been any good at referencing Greek mythology. ..the Classics are too big. ..Luckily, new mythologies are being created every day, not least in the world of video games. ..Just like the Classics, the fighters here are predominantly allegorical. ..I urge other writers to dip into this mythology for themselves, particularly if they have an interest in the Classics. Street Fighter 2 spans several continents, containing not only echoes of Greek and Roman mythology, but encompassing Eastern histories as well.”
Apparently, Ross’ collection Hyakuretsu Kyaku consists of a series of twelve sonnets based on the twelve great playable characters, from Ryu to M Bison, of Capcom classic Street Fighter 2.
This poet has always taken poetry like a game, like solving a puzzle— the harder the levels the greater the pleasure. It was his grandmother, he said, who brought him into this amazing world of verse. He used to write her letters—full of poems—which was fun.
My close friend, in my school, was a video game addict. He spent most of his school meal money on that (including extra bucks stolen from his dad’s wallet). I know pretty well how it feels like being a video game geek. I can feel Ross’ heart when he boldly declares in an interview, ”The Street Fighter poems are some of the most serious things I’ve ever written.” He utterly loved the idea of elevating Street Fighter to the level of Greek mythology.
As a character, Ross is tremendously wicked and funny, too. From beginning to end, in this collection, he amuses the readers thoroughly. Some examples:
”All characters used without permission but with great respect. Please don’t sue me, it’s probably not worth it.”
”M Bison: You have made me a very happy man.
Guile: And next, I’ll make you a dead one.” (Street Fighter, the movie, 1994)
It is conceivable that you may sense these sonnets are bound for youngsters. The truth is adults can get much pleasure out of it. I personally liked and enjoyed reading the e-book. One hopes Ross Sutherland will keep up the good work. Last but not least, poetry lovers can easily download this e-book from this link (completely free):
http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2011/10/hyakuretsu-kyaku/

Published in the Daily Star on 27 April 2013