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These poems appeared in first anthologies that I published in and in my first two collections.

The critics said:
Of the anthology, A Poetry Quintet, "The last of these, James Sutherland-Smith is outstanding ... observant and in the true (unportentous) sense of the word, compassionate." John Mole in The Times Literary Supplement


First you reach a severed calf's head.
One eye trails from it on a string
Of nerves and string.
You walk on the road
Avoiding pavements slimy with blood
And the offals heaped in bulging
Polythene bags.
A butcher smiles at you
While he ties up a pig's carcase
Scoring its rind of gristle.
You see building
On building, a whole city ribbed with meat.
It is near your blood time.
When I ring
You say "No, no no! I'm all right!"
Yet you fee yourself distend until you fear
The office walls might crack under the stress
Of your bulk.
You can only wait sensing
The relief of pain, counting each fat second.

After work you will return through the market
On pavements hosed clean, past porters wearing
Fresh overalls and the rows of empty hooks.
You will walk quickly thin as a blade.

From A Poetry Quintet (1976)

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Of A Singer from Sabiya "This collection reveals a poet with a remarkable mastery of the craft." Robert Graecen British Book News


The moon floats like a slice of lemon
In a sky, alcohol blue.

Such an evening encourages
Chinese considerations;

An iron puppy, a roll of silk
Leaking manure, a ghost scared off
By ink smeared across his face,

A vixen on the frozen river
Stooping to see her opposite
Running with her beneath the ice.

You add lustre to your hair
By rinsing it in vinegar
Three days after blood has questioned you.

You don’t remember the riddle
Of desire. The dog fox drowns his fleas
In springs of volcanic water.

Their fingertips smudgy with ink,
Friendlier presences record
Details of your foundation cream

As I don a hairshirt of cologne
Merely a cuddly neuter now

And the moon spins, a circular saw
Cutting through indigo wood.

From A Singer from Sabiya 1979

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Of Naming of the Arrow "a mineshaft sunk deep into nature, sexuality and language that strikes rich ore" Michele Roberts City Limits


Do not trust the stars.
They arrive when words sleep
And induce the ghost of pure noise.
The Milky Way reels above you.
Its furthest energy began
To reach towards you before
Our first gutturals were uttered
While its nearest source of light could,
At this moment, no longer exist.
Be disturbed
By the church’s mineral chime,
The unscuffed grid for hopscotch
Chalked on the pavement and the ash leaf
Its tissue worn away to a pattern
Of veins. It is held beneath
A translucent glaze of ice
Like a specimen on a slide.
It is certain enough.
It is not permanent.

From Naming of the Arrow 1981

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I don't know if this was ever reviewed. It fetches the highest price of anything I've contributed to in the second-hand book market.


That original, Adam-and-Eve of a tree,
Two lovers united as a single birch,
An eternal clasp of thigh and knee,
Should defy the hardest cold and preserve
A perfect human state.
Too far north for such degree
Of bliss. Listen as frost wrinkles in the bark
And hear them, inevitably, crack apart.

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