James Sutherland-Smith was brought up mostly abroad until his parents sent him to prep school at the age of nine. At Leeds University he was encouraged to write poetry despite reading Political Studies. He rejected an academic career and worked firstly with homeless people in London and then as an articled clerk with a firm of accountants. He qualified as a teacher and then moved into language teaching.
In 1980 he left Britain for good. He worked in Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and in the autumn of 1989 took a lector's job with the British Council in the then Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia six weeks before the Velvet Revolution and found himself playing a small role at the centre of events. He is still resident in Slovakia, and since 2002 has worked in Serbia advising both the Serbian Armed Forces and Montenegrin Armed Forces on teaching and learning English.
Viera and James Sutherland-Smith are leading translators of Slovak poetry into English. James was responsible for the first anthology of contemporary Slovak poetry translated into English, Not Waiting For Miracles in 1993 and since then he and Viera have translated the selected poems of a number of individual Slovak poets including J´n Búzassy, Ivan LaucÃk, Jozef Leikert and Milan Rúfus.
Viera teaches English and Psychology in a vocational secondary school in Slovakia and James is Project Manager for the Peacekeeping English Project advising the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro. James's last collection of his own work was Popeye in Belgrade (Carcanet, 2008)