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last update:

12th Mar 11

Janet Sutherland photo
photo by Katie Vandyck
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poetry favourites:
Shearsman Books


and in the shop…
collections – “Bone Monkey”,
“Hangman’s Acre”
“Burning the Heartwood”
Shearsman Books



Janet Sutherland was born in Salisbury and grew up on a small dairy farm in Wiltshire. She studied at Cardiff and Essex Universities and has an MA in American Poetry. She lived twenty years in East London during which time she worked in local government and also taught woodwork to adults.
Since 2001 she has lived in Lewes, East Sussex.
She is the author of:

     Burning the Heartwood (Shearsman Books) 2006
     Hangman’s Acre (Shearsman Books) 2009
Poems have appeared in anthologies including:

     Angels of Fire. An Anthology of Radical Poetry in the 80’s. Ed. Sylvia Paskin, Jay Ramsay and Jeremy Silver. Chatto and Windus 1986

     Dancing the Tightrope: New Love Poems by Women ed. Barbara Burford, Lindsay MacRae & Sylvia Paskin (1987)

     The New British Poetry 1968-88 (1988) ed. Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards, Eric Mottram. Paladin Poetry

     The Virago Book of Love Poetry ed. Wendy Mulford 1990

     I Wouldn’t thank you for a Valentine ed. Carol Ann Duffy (1992)

Janet Sutherland prefers a pared-back, uncluttered, free verse for the poems in Hangman’s Acre. The understated tones and hewn forms create a careful performance (there’s a call to be made for poems, like these, whose proximity to pain and death is pretty well face to face). But Sutherland’s poems do not gloom or mope; and like the poets above she is a gifted and observant nature writer:
          the voice of the chainsaw echoes in
          valleys   smoke hangs high and drifts
          the terraces are held against the mountain
          by the dead and the living   their hands

          their muscles    the salt of their skin
          at dusk the mountains shift to grey
          layers of rock are smoke and mist
          and the sound of the chainsaw stops

          just this spade and this pick scraping
          making the little difference   and underfoot
          the cloudy cyclamen and by the side
          the dark leaved aromatic myrtle

There are many delicacies in such an approach: deftness of image, delays of space. Elizabeth Bishop’s attentiveness of voice hangs over this whole collection but the influence is one of tone. I can’t help but admire the fact that this poet can yield such music, movement and scent from a rebounding flowerhead and a slowed-down spondee-sprung myrtle.


David Morley, Poetry Review Volume 100:1 Spring 2010