Janet Sutherland

Janet Sutherland: Featured Poet

It was great to meet Janet at her joint launch with Jeremy Page a couple of weeks ago and amazingly the poem she sent me for this blog is my favourite in the collection. Serendipity?

janet sutherland


My Red Morocco Jack Boots

There are seven stations between Belgrade and Alexnitza
where changing horses takes an hour. At Pashapolanca
we had bread and slivovitz then lay on hard board
and slept very soundly. In white caps and German blouses,

Turkish trousers, with twelve yards of stuff, and jack boots
(mine were red morocco) our cavalcade moved off.
At night the path was very striking, summer lightning
pierced the dense foliage. I am not a Romantic

but here and there we came suddenly upon
encampments of caravans from Stambul and glimpsed
the wild forms of shadow men around a blazing fire.
At one such place I left my companions

these travel notes being all I took. They blundered
onwards to their next hotel, a consul dinner
in a dirty town, while I dismounted gesturing
and asking, in English, for the local wine.

These days I while away my time in idle pleasures
for the men are very sociable and well disposed.
I found a good specimen of a Serbian woman,
alone in the woods on her way to market,

her hair dyed black and twisted to one side;
she wore, like the Greeks, a tight under vest,
a purple velvet jacket, embroidered in gold and silver,
a treble row of ducats around her neck

and a silk petticoat which slipped through my fingers
like the river Morava. A practical woman,
she saw what I wanted, and opened her legs
by the side of the mountain, saying nothing.


Janet Sutherland was born in Wiltshire and grew up on a dairy farm. She has an MA in American Poetry from the University of Essex. Her poems are widely anthologised from The Virago Book of Love Poetry to The New British Poetry 1968-88 (Paladin). Her essay Reznikoff and his Sources appeared in the recent Black Sparrow (US) and Five Leaves (UK) editions of Reznikoff’s Holocaust. She lives in Lewes, East Sussex. She has three full collections from Shearsman Books the most recent of which is Bone Monkey (April 2014)

This new collection from Janet Sutherland explores the deeply mischievous, but darkly malevolent figure of Bone Monkey. A trickster who has always existed, he’s one of the old gods who sprang to life fully formed. He is by turns perpetrator and poet, murderer and lover, gardener and carer.

With sonnets, ballads and lyrical free verse Bone Monkey wanders through a series of shamanic creation myths into reveries on memory, love and loss. If he is brutal and amoral at times, he is also a dreamer rejoicing in those longings to eat the whole world, as Robert Bly has it, which are intrinsically human.

Shearsman Books