Fox and Bloodhound
As a teenager falling in love with poetry, I thought of Fox as the bold, definite creature that slunk into Ted Hughes poem ‘The Thought Fox’ with a ‘hot stink’, printing the page in its wake. Fox was smouldering, certain and momentary. Brought up on books like Hawk Roosting and Moortown Diary, I could imagine no other kind of poetic animal. When I eventually wrote my own poem ‘Fox Miles’, it seemed almost sacrilegious to have created a personal version of this archetype, a creature who ran beside me once in Cambridge at 5am, who seemed to symbolise loss and longing, the sense of being an outsider. I realised that my own experience of foxes was defined by their melancholy more than their totemism.
Discovering Ken Smith’s deliciously tricky, ravaged urban fox was a revelation to me as a twenty-something writer. Here was Fox as raconteur, maniac and drunkard, possessed and possessing the London night. I was soon intoxicated. When we first encounter the unreliable narrator in ‘Fox Running’, he is already slipping away from us: ‘loose in his sleek skin / loose in his slick fur.’ That opening stanza puts the reader on the back foot. Fox is too lithe for his own body. As we follow him ‘into the tube maps / into the bus routes into the rails’, he seems invisible and present at the same time, somewhere under the city’s skin. He soon begins to shape shift into a man, a lover, a runaway, a criminal. He can be both human and animal at the same time. Ken Smith’s Fox is ...
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