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  • Fraser Sutherland

The Art of Avoidance: Fraser Sutherland

The Art of Avoidance"We have learned to avert our eye from animal and human suffering," writes Fraser Sutherland in his poem . That might be true, at least sometimes - there is so much pain constantly surrounding us that we try to seek a short recess, a cowardly, but so human-like closing of the eyes even if for a moment, even if it is just to catch a breath... Nevertheless, the pain will be there to hunt the poet, to hunt us. The pessimistic worldview of unavoidable hierarchies ("Despite it, we’re their overlord") where "empathy is a luxury we can't afford" causes an active restlessness in the mind of a reader. We look around searching for that "violent motion(s)... of winds"... What will we find?

Fraser Sutherland is a widely-traveled poet and lexicographer who lives in Toronto, Canada. He has published 17 books, including nine poetry collections, most recently The Philosophy of As If (Bookland Press, 2010).



There they go, flitting and gliding in the big glass tank above the bar. Now and then one nips the other on the tail but generally they seem acqueously content in shades of gold, angel, and éminence grise,

and what about the multidoored floating chalices of streetcars and, seen through their windows, me.


The flutter of the butterfly’s wing had an unintended consequence. It caused a cyclone that left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The butterfly was just going about the business of being a butterfly. How could it have known that it would set in violent motion a circulation of winds? The butterfly settles on a leaf, settling the future.


We have learned to avert our eye from animal and human animal suffering. We have no time to partake of pity lest it diminish us. To give us our day they have made for us an agonized display. To evidence compassion, let alone empathy, is to condescend, a luxury we can’t afford. Somewhere, we’re sure, there’s a remedy to the fact that these who live must die and to get there must undergo a hateful thing, mute dumb existence or active pain in the starved countryside or brutal city. To unblemished vision they constitute a stain we must abide. Despite it, we’re their overlord.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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